So near … and yet so far

Week twenty-four of our restoration project in Istria

Time is getting extremely tight and there’s an awful lot still to do at Kovaci. To have any hope of having guests this year, I have a real race on my hands. This is a crucial week: the kitchens go in and the pool is finished. But with soaring temperatures and visiting parents, do I make the progress I need?


With Miro pretty much finished, action in Kovaci now moves firmly into my court. I’ve boxes and boxes of furniture awaiting assembly, and loads of things to go on walls. I’m dying to get stuck in, but rather nervous about it. Being a total girly, I’ve never put up flat-pack furniture before: that’s always been P’s job. But, as he’s going to have plenty to do installing curtain and shower rails, mirrors and pictures (I don’t trust myself to make things level and putting screws into walls is way beyond my comfort level), I’ve decided to give it a go. After all, how hard can it be?


A balancing act

On Friday, P went to collect his parents from Zagreb airport for a ten-day visit. While he’s away, I prepare dinner, blitz the ironing and rush round making the house presentable (all good wifely duties I normally neglect). Plants on pergola in Kovaci, Istria

With them here, my challenge will be balancing hostess duties with Kovaci. Left to myself, I’d undertake a massive furniture assembly marathon and blitz the project. But even I know this isn’t a possibility. I can’t abandon everyone, just to roll up exhausted every evening, say ‘Hi’, eat and crash.

The deal I’ve struck with myself is to start furniture assembly when the kitchens arrive. I’ll spend the weekend and Monday (a public holiday – Croatian Independence Day) with the family and only go to Kovaci to water the newly planted plants.

With temperatures soaring higher and higher, this is an easy deal to keep. Who wouldn’t rather flop in the pool than assemble flat-pack in the sweltering heat?


Pool perfectPool liner being fitted in Kovaci, Istria

On Tuesday’s watering trip, I’m delighted to see the liner going into the swimming pool. “We’ll be finished today,” they say. Great news!

Sure enough, when I go up on Wednesday, water is going into the pool and looks very dramatic, gushing from two large inlets. I’m also delighted to see the pergolas now have netting.

Pool filling in Kovaci, IstriaOn my way home, I pop into Porec and return the oversized bathroom cabinets (when Miro tried putting them up last week, they’d proved far too large). And, ‘yes!’, I get a complete refund – which I then blow, ordering two alternatives. Even though smaller and simpler, they cost almost as much!



Kitchens at last

Thursday is a major red-letter day: the kitchens finally start going in. I go up to monitor progress and start my assembly marathon.

As furniture is easier to manoeuvre in flat-pack form, I’ve decided to move it all into place first and assemble it in-situ. I also want to check I have everything and clear space in the dining area. That’s my justification: if I’m honest, what I Flat-pack chair assembled in Kovaci, Istriareally want is to see some quick progress and shifting boxes does just that. So while Sigi and Teuta’s Dad move their boxes into the kitchen, I move mine out.

Miro arrives (to finish boxing in sinks and loo pipes) while I’m half way through and is most impressed to see me humping heavy boxes around.

I’ve decided to start my marathon with the comfy chairs in the master bedroom, which look fairly straightforward. Being clever, I’ve decided to work in front of the airco, even if this means working crouched on the floor. By lunch time I’ve assembled my first chair and I’m feeling very confident – this flat-pack stuff is dead easy!

But I am rather concerned about the airco. While it’s lovely working in a breeze, isn’t it supposed to be a cool breeze? When I started work, the thermometer on the airco unit read 29°C. Two hours later, it reads 30°C. Is it working properly, I wonder? Praying it’s just me being stupid, I quit for lunch, all set to return to the battle in the afternoon.


Too much to do?

Assembling house kitchen in Kovaci, Istria“Why are you killing yourself in this heat?” P asks, as we clear lunch away. “It’s pretty clear we’re not going to get everything ready for this season, not even the end of August: there’s simply too much left to be done. We’ll have plenty of time over the winter so relax, wait until the weather starts cooling. You’ll collapse, if you keep pushing yourself so hard.”  

I’ve been in ‘go, go, go’ mode, determined to get everything finished, and haven’t thought about when that might be. As I re-stack the fridge, I think about it and, with a sinking heart, realise he is probably right. Who am I kidding, he’s definitely right!

Our initial goal was to be ready for our first guests in early July – the start of the holiday high season. Even just renovating the house, we were working to a very tight schedule – because, to allow enough time for advertising and bookings, everything needed finishing by mid-May latest. Tight, but hopefully do-able.

Once we decided to renovate the barn as well, I knew we’d never make the start of the high season, but had hoped for some late bookings at the end of August. This now looks extremely unlikely. June is nearly over (July starts on Sunday) and the place is still basically unfurnished.

Siggy working on the barn kitchen in Kovaci, IstriaWith my morning’s experience, I begin to realise the size of the task still ahead of me. It took me two hours to put up one easy chair – I’ve still got one more, plus eight bed-side tables, two dining tables, fourteen dining chairs (yes, they really do come flat-pack), nine desk chairs, two coffee-tables, two garden tables and ten lounger chairs to assemble (at least the garden chairs are one-piece!). I also still have loads more shopping – I haven’t bought a stick of kitchen equipment, for example. P has all the rails and fittings to mount. The beds and wardrobes are still missing, as is the lawn – while the grass is sown, it has yet to sprout.

The reality of the situation hits me hard and brings me back to earth with a bump. I really am not going to make it! So instead of going back, I quit for the day and go for a swim with a glass of wine. 

But I do go back on Friday – after all, while I might not have the place ready for this summer, there is still a lot to do.

Almost finished house kitchen in Kovaci, IstriaFriday is the hottest day of the year so far (well over 30°C). While Sigi toils at finalising the barn kitchen, I assemble the other comfy chair. But my heart isn’t in it. Yesterday, I was all upbeat and motivated: go! go! go! Today, knowing there is no rush, it is hard work. It’s just too damn hot and I still can’t get the airco working properly. I finish the chair, pack up my tools and go home. Furniture can wait, and I’ll solve the airco problem another day. I’ll come back after P’s parents have gone, when the weather’s a little cooler (this week’s been the hottest I’ve ever known in Istria). After all, it can’t stay this hot for long – can it? Find out next week.


Also see

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