It all happened on Wednesday

Wednesday was one of those strange Croatian days. We had the pool fixed, the plumber came to repair the Little House boiler and a ton of gravel arrived in the drive. None of which we were expecting when the week started: all we’d expected were visitors. The holiday season was nearly upon us and first up were some Family, so the biggest challenge we expected was juggling entertaining with work at Kovaci and our normal hectic Istrian life.


One leak …

It all started the previous Thursday, when we decided it was time to get the swimming pool ready for the season. P switched on the pump to start cleaning and the filter spouted water – not good. “Not serious though –  just a gasket needs replacing,” he said. “Can you call the pool guys?” Changing a gasket might be a simple job, but getting inside a pool filter needs a specialist tool to unscrew the top.

P opening pool for cleaningEven though they were run off their feet opening pools, a pool guy came round on Friday. “Your problem’s not a gasket,” he said. “Your filter casing’s split and, as they operate under pressure, they can’t be reliably repaired. You need a new one and I haven’t one in stock. I’ll order it. Hopefully it shouldn’t take too long and I’ll get it to you as soon as I can.”

Our hearts sank. Not only is a filter an expensive piece of kit, ‘I’ll get it to you as soon as I can,’ is a Croatian way of saying, ‘it could take weeks!’ 

Without the filter we could not clean the pool and so it sat, waiting. It was a race against time. Even with the pump re-circulating the water with chlorine in it, to stop it algae growing, with so much accumulated detritus from the winter shutdown, our crystal clear water would slowly turn mucky. Especially if the weather turned warm, which of course it did. But before that, the weekend blew in wet and cold weather … and Family, two days early.


… leads to another

I’d long known Family were coming, but being somewhat distracted with Kovaci, I’d left Spring cleaning The Little House a bit late this year. Having said that, doing it on Sunday with first guests due Tuesday evening ought to have been fine.

Pool filter in pool room, IstriaSo our cleaner arrived Sunday morning to do battle with mops and brooms, and P went down to switch on the hot water boiler – and water came pouring out, all over the bathroom floor! We had another leak, this time in the back of the boiler. At this stage, the leak seemed more of an irritation than a problem. Srdjan knew a plumber (who we’d used before and been impressed with), so hopefully a quick phone call would sort things out before Family arrived. Sure enough, when P called Srdjan, he immediately called his plumber who was actually working on a Sunday. “No problem,” he said, “I’ve a few things to finish up, but I’ll be round Monday afternoon.” So, after a large, late lunch, we curled up in front of the fire (it was wet and cold) and settled in with a glass of wine for a lazy afternoon.  

Just as I was dozing off, my phone rang. It was Family. They were supposed to have been camping in Slovenia for a few days on their way down to us. While it was wet and miserable with us, it was monsoons and gales in the Slovenian mountains: camping had lost its appeal. “Can we come a few days earlier?” they asked.

That woke me up!  “We’ve no food for you and the boiler’s bust!” I protested. “We don’t mind. We just want a roof over our heads.” “Of course you can come,” I said. “Great,” they replied, “we’ll be with you in an hour.”

HELP! After an hour’s mad dash round The Little House making sure it was ready, Family were blown in by the storm – a great start to their holiday.


The riddle of the missing plumber

Monday afternoon came and went – no plumber. I called Srdjan and he called: no answer. Still no answer Tuesday morning and Srdjan called me. “He’s disappeared, or he’s avoiding me,” he said. “I guess you’ll need to find another plumber!”

The offending boiler in IstriaI was furious! Why did the plumber agree to come fix the boiler if he didn’t have the time? He could have said ‘no’ at the start and I’d have moved on to someone else; as it was, I was back at square one, having lost a day. The only thing I was grateful about was we had Family in The Little House, not paying guests! They could come use our shower, so it was an inconvenience, not a total disaster.

A few more calls and I had another plumber lined up. “He’ll be round just after 12:00,” I was told and, amazingly, he was.

Seems our problem was frozen pipes. Despite the boiler and pipes being well inside the house, the big freeze we had in February froze the system. When P switched it on … ‘boom’! Of course it was an expensive component which broke and needed ordering. “We’ll have it sent Express Delivery,” said the plumber, “but I can’t promise when it will arrive. If there’s one in stock in Zagreb, it could be Wednesday. If it has to come from abroad, who knows?”

With fingers crossed that Zagreb would be able to provide, we settled down for a wait. Luckily the bad, cold weather had blown through and Tuesday dawned a gorgeous day. Family might not have their own shower, but at least they’d finally got the sunshine they’d come away for.

With Family visiting, did I clear my schedule to spend time with them? Of course not, that would have been too easy. As well as periodically charging up to Kovaci to liaise with the builders, finding time for some sightseeing with Family, keeping on top of our rental business and even penning a few lines for Live Istria, I was also in the throes of a major garden make-over behind The Little House. It should have been finished before Family arrived, but of course it wasn’t and, with paying guests coming soon after, I hadn’t a moment to waste (but more on that elsewhere).


An invasion of workmen

As there was an off-chance the plumber might arrive sometime on Wednesday, P and I decided to spend the day at home and Family went off exploring on their own. I’d just settled into my gardening session, when a van pulled into the drive. ‘The plumber,’ I thought. No, amazingly it was the pool guys. The filter had come through faster than expected, great news! We soon had a working system – and a huge bill to go with it – but couldn’t start the pool cleaning. “Let the glue dry and then pressurise the system this afternoon,” they said. “If you get any leaks, just let us know and we’ll be back.”

A few gardening hours later and the plumber finally arrived. Phew! I know it’s not my fault the boiler broke, but I felt very guilty and embarrassed by it, so was delighted to see him. My joy was short lived though. He fitted the new part, pressurised the system … and another part went ‘boom’! ‘So near, but yet so far,’ I thought sadly, as he drove off to order yet another part from Zagreb.

JCB spreading gravel in our drive, IstriaMid-afternoon and a couple of horn toots caught my attention – by this stage I was in the middle of a long-neglected pile of ironing. It was a lorry-load of gravel for the drive. A few weeks ago, I’d arranged this delivery with a guy who’d been doing some work in the village. As I’d heard nothing since, I’d assumed he’d forgotten all about us. I’d been about to call, when he turned up. As well as delivering the gravel, he’d agreed to spread it for the princely sum of 50 kn (about £6). Unfortunately this didn’t turn out to be quite the bargain I’d hoped for (they never are …). His idea of spreading was to use his JCB to push the piles roughly into place. Ten minutes later, he’d finished and we still had rolling foothills of gravel all over the drive. “A quick trip round with a rake and you’ll be sorted,” he said, disappearing into the distance.

With Family due back any minute and gravel blocking access at the gate, I rapidly set-to clearing a route in. It took considerably longer than a few minutes and needed spade as well as rake, but at least I had the drive usable (sort-of) by the time they returned. Finishing it off is a job looming in my future.


The leaks continue

“Are you aware the shower leaks?” Family asked the following afternoon, as we sat around the barbeque. NO, I wasn’t! It seems the boiler wasn’t the Big Freeze’s only victim. It had also cracked the shower’s mixer tap. On Thursday evening the drip was small: by Friday afternoon, it had turned into a spray. We needed a new tap – fast. I just hoped we could get it installed before the spray became a geyser.

P fixes the tap in The Little House, IstriaThe plumber had got the last part in 24 hours, so I’d been hoping to see him again by now. ‘Maybe he can fit the new tap for us when he brings the next part,’ I wondered, calling to find out where he was. It wasn’t to be. The part wouldn’t arrive before Monday, so I went shopping and P fixed the tap. At least Family now had a shower that wasn’t spraying water all over the bathroom – if no hot water to make it useable!

But as promised, the plumber turned up Monday afternoon with the latest piece of the plumbing puzzle. He disappeared into The Little House and I held my breath, waiting for the cascade of failures to continue. It was something of an anti-climax when he emerged, saying “All fixed.” With 24 hours of their holiday left, Family now had their own hot shower and I finally relaxed.


Bye-bye Family

By the end of Family’s visit, I’d finished my gardening marathon, we’d fixed the shower and hot water, and the pool water was clear (even if the bottom still needed a clean). We were shattered, but everything was repaired, ready for our first paying guests of the season. Then…

“Thought you ought to know,” said Family, as they were packing up to leave. “The TV doesn’t seem to work and you might want to have a look at the freezer compartment door – it’s just fallen off.” WHAT!!!!

As Family drove away, we dived into The Little House to see what else needed repairing or replacing. So, if you don’t hear from me again for a while, I’m probably either stuck up a ladder investigating the TV aerial, holding widgets while P fixes, or trying to track down some other obscure item which needs replacing. Oh, the joys of holiday home ownership!


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