The final push

Weeks thirty to thirty-eight of our restoration project in Istria

After the watering ban set-back, it’s a week before I can face Kovaci again. But I can’t put things off for ever. So with August going into its second week, I resume the battle. The air-co’s fixed … sort of … and Miro lends a helping hand; I play with furniture and go shopping mad. Finally, with September drawing to a close, I think we might be nearly there, and it’s Classification time.

 

Air-co fixed, once…

Miracles can happen. On Wednesday, just as I’m finishing assembling a coffee table, the air-co guys turn up (only two weeks after the leak was reported) … and spend the next three hours looking at the malfunctioning system. I’m amazed: Assembly chaos in kitchen-diner in Kovaci, Istriawith their busy workload, I’d seriously doubted I’d see them before the end of the summer. There are times when it’s great to be proved wrong, but I just wish the work didn’t take them so long!

Finally, when I’m exhausted and long wishing to go home, they finish. They admit there must have been a leak – the coolant is all gone, but they can’t find it (the leak, not the coolant). So, they’ve tightened everything and refilled the system. Hopefully, it should be OK now – or so they say. Fingers crossed.

 

A helping hand

I might be getting on reasonably well assembling flat-pack, but nothing much else is happening: no pictures, curtains, shower rails … P’s simply been too busy with other projects to put them up (in a year busy with the new house, it’s also been ‘all change’ in just about every other area of our life). “Maybe the end of the week,” he’d say. But when the end of the week came, it was always, “Next week.”

While working round the house, I’ve noticed a few things Miro and Toni have missed, so in the middle of August, Toni pops round to see what needs doing. While he’s there, I have a brilliant idea: maybe he can come help me put up curtain rails, etc. instead of P? “Sure,” he says. “No problem.” He’ll come next week.

Mirror & shelf up in Kovaci bathroom, IstriaOf course it’s not Toni who comes, but Miro! ‘With our linguistic mismatch, this is going to be a challenge,’ I think. But it proves fine. Hand signals, pidgeon Croatian and lots of laughs see us through the next few days. My Croatian improves and I really enjoy myself.

Watching Miro work, calmly accepting the problems that crop up, I’m relieved P hasn’t had the time. With the house’s old plasterwork, picture and mirror hanging is proving difficult: as soon as it sees the drill bit, the plaster keeps coming away in chunks. If it did that to P, he’d go ballistic!

Then there’s the shower rails. Whichever ones I buy are always wrong! I’ll take a set-back like this from Miro – I can’t shout at him. But if it had been P, we’d have had a blazing row. So in the end, P not having the time was good news :).

 

… air-co fixed twice …

Surprise, surprise – the air-co isn’t fixed. While I’m irritated it still leaks, I’m delighted to say it’s Miro who discovers the damp patch. (If I’d found it, he’d never have believed me. Like Toni, he’d been insistent the air-co worked fine.)

As the air-co guys had said they hadn’t found the leak and that we should keep an eye out for damp patches, I actually wasn’t that surprised. But Miro takes the leak as a personal insult. He’d told the guys to fix it and they haven’t! He’s on the phone immediately, angrily berating the air-co chief. His reaction amuses me, but I just hope it won’t irritate the guy – I want them fixing the system, not boycotting me! But whatever Miro says works as, at the end of the afternoon, a guy turns up and spends an hour fiddling. Hopefully, that’ll now see the end of the problem.

 

… air-co fixed again … and again …!

Jumping ahead a little, I can report the problems continued. Eventually, the whole unit had to be disassembled and new fittings ordered, which took a few weeks to arrive: then getting them fitted took me yet more chasing.

While all this was frustrating, I was mainly relieved we didn’t have any guests in the house. If people had been staying, sweltering in the heat, I’d have been mortified.

Of course, the work was finally finished and it now seems to work fine (fingers crossed) – but I still have my doubts. Maybe it’s me, but it always seems that when a brand new electrical appliance needs repairing before it’s even been used, it never seems to work properly afterwards. Have you noticed that too, or is it just me? Now, back to August.

 

Furniture puzzles

Quirky, old houses with crooked walls and floors are all well and cute – in theory. In practice they can be a real pain, as I found when the bedroom furniture arrived a month ago.

Teuta helping shift beds in Kovaci, IstriaFirst up was the linen cupboard: it leaned to the right, due to the sloping floor while, at the same time, the wall to its left was much thicker at the bottom than higher up, making the lean seem a lot bigger than it actually was. The huge gap at the top looked awful – not quirky or cute, just wrong! Also, as I’d done my measurements at about chest height, there was far less space at floor level than I’d thought. While bunk-bed and cupboard fitted, there was now no room for a bedside table.

Some lateral thinking: clip-on bedside lights and large wedges to make the cupboard stand upright, and the problem’s solved.

Next came the barn bedrooms – a far trickier puzzle. None of the barn’s exterior walls are parallel, none even the same length, which creates some ‘interesting’ corners. Before Miro started the building work, I’d done scale drawings with pen and paper and, in theory, the furniture fitted nicely. In reality, when everything arrived, it didn’t.

The worst offender was the twin bedroom which had the stairs cut into it. My drawing showed the stairs one size, but Miro had had to build them wider, as dictated by the space between the beams. Because of this, the furniture layout which had worked so well on paper looked a disaster in reality.

Twin bedroom made up & looking great in Kovaci, IstriaThe obvious solution seemed to be swapping the rooms over, tucking the double bed against the far wall, next to the stairwell – I measured, it should fit. Luckily Sigi was still there putting up other furniture. So, with an understandable sigh of irritation, he disassembled the three beds and swapped them over. While it fitted, with the room’s crazy angles, I couldn’t get anything flat against a wall and it looked no better than before!

Determined not to be defeated by a few awkward corners, I went back to the drawing board: did proper scale drawings of the room, created cut-out paper furniture and started shuffling things around. Eventually, I found a layout which worked – although if I’m honest, actually P did – but it involved swapping the beds back into their original rooms! Embarrassing, but I was going to have to ask Sigi to come back and disassemble everything … again. Luckily for me, Teuta owed me a favour or two – some desks and a wardrobe to be exact, and in early August she and Sigi came to help me with the swap. It worked!

Huge relief – everything fits and in the end, it’s probably the better looking of the two bedrooms. Seeing them now, you’d never guess the heartache and angst those beds caused me.

 

Shop till I drop

With August well under way, my attention switches back to shopping: pillows, cutlery, knick-knacks and extra shelving – the list seems endless and the car’s filled and unloaded time and again. Soon my hall, living room and landing become a warehouse of stuff waiting to be ferried to Kovaci.

My living room full of stuff for Kovaci, IstriaBut it isn’t all hard work. We go and see Tom Jones in concert at the Pula arena – a wonderful night out, under the stars. Family come and visit – and get press-ganged into helping out! It’s very useful having a brother-in-law who’s a DIY wizard. He, not P, puts up the final mirrors and fixes the things which broke.

By early September, I’ve bought mountains of stuff and I’m just setting out to buy yet another load of pots and pans and so on, when P calls a halt. “All this is costing a fortune,” he says. “Let’s make sure we can rent this place, before you spend any more!”

 

Classification

This project was always intended to generate rental income and legally, to rent a holiday property in Croatia, you need a tourist property classification from the local council (and it’s not always possible for foreigners to get one: see Buying a rentable Croatian property). Of course we had done what we could before we even bought Kovaci to check we could get the classification, but in Croatia, you can only ever be sure of one thing: things change. 

Master bedroom in Kovaci, Istria, all readyFor us in Porec, the process involves (among other things) an inspection of property, facilities and equipment by the ‘Tourist Classification’ lady – and so we needed to get to a certain point with the restoration and furnishing before starting the classification process. While, in the past, for our other properties, she’s always been fair, but firm, there’s no guarantee things will go as smoothly this time, so it made sense to stop any further spending once we deemed ourselves ‘ready’.

The idea though that she might turn us down for some unknown reason is too awful to contemplate. Of course I understood his reasoning, but I just wish P hadn’t put it into words. Failure simply isn’t an option! Or is it? By the end of September, it’s time to find out. Kovaci is ready for inspection. How will we get on?

 

Also see

Restoration diary:

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