Miro’s finished!!! Sort of …

Week twenty-three of our restoration project in Istria

At last, Miro’s finished – in a way – so I should be celebrating, but somehow it doesn’t happen. Soaring temperatures, kitchen delays and garden issues preoccupy me so much, this momentous event slips past unnoticed. My focus is on finishing in time for possible guests: but we’re now so far behind schedule, I suspect we’ll need a miracle – time’s simply running out. But I refuse to admit defeat – miracles can happen and kitchens can arrive!


Kitchen time?

Just back from a few days in the UK visiting my parents. 

Travelling is exhausting and I’d love a lie in on Monday morning but, with the kitchens promised for today, it isn’t to be. I need to let the fitters in and want to be on hand, in case they’ve any questions. So, while they fit kitchens, I’m going to start assembling flat-pack furniture … or that’s the plan.

Teuta should have called me first thing but, by 10 am, I’ve heard nothing. I call – no answer. Still no answer at 10:30. After all the delays we’ve had so far, I’m now getting right royally irritated and all set to give her a mouthful. Then the phone rings. Like me, she’s been away for the weekend and got back at 5 am to find her husband / kitchen fitter, Sigi, with a raging temperature and severe eye infection. She’s full of apologies for not calling me earlier, but is only just back with him from the doctor. It takes the wind right out of my sails and makes me feel a complete heel for my evil thoughts.

The only good news is that her stock has been released by the Tax Office. Now, she has a fitting problem! “Not to worry,” she says. “My Dad will bring you the units later today and Sigi can start fitting them tomorrow. He’s on antibiotics, so he’ll be fine by then. You’ll only lose one day.” ‘On top of the two weeks we’ve already lost!’ I think, but don’t say. I have my doubts, but choose to believe her – I really, really want those kitchens fitted.


Champagne celebrations? Err … no

Miro gives the parking area's gravel a final rakeKovaci has been worryingly quiet recently. But Tuesday is like old times: the site is packed! Unfortunately, while we might have builders, gardeners and an electrician, there’s no sign of kitchen units or Sigi. I sigh and concentrate on the tasks at hand.

Miro’s been busy while I’ve been away. The pool terrace is finally grouted (all paving now finished!) and the up-lighters have been installed, along with the path lights. I arrive to find all three of the crew (Miro, Toni and Amir) putting finishing touches to the parking area – it looks magnificent! The walls have been painted pink and Miro’s pulling a final rake across the gravel.

Having seen the painted flowerbed, it isn’t a total shock to see pink plasterwork on the front of the house. It certainly looks different and, for once, I think I’ve got the colour choice right. I’m also delighted to see the pergola bed now has House outside plasterwork in Kovaci Istria is painted dusty pinkan irrigation pipe (fretting about which woke me up early last week) and, better still, you can’t see where it’s been channelled in. Miro does come through for me at times!

We started this project way back in early January, and Miro’s team has been hard at work ever since. Today, apart from numerous finishing items (including finalising the pool, which he organised but didn’t install himself), Miro’s part in this huge undertaking is at last essentially complete and it all looks magnificent! Do I thank him, Toni and Amir, and produce champagne to celebrate? Do I even stop and savour the moment? I’d love to say I do, but, of course, I don’t. I’m so focused on finishing this project, the significance of what’s just happened doesn’t even register. I’m only delighted to see them, because I want to go through the snag list with Toni, find out when the pool will be finished, check the green netting for the pergola, …!


Garden issues

But first, I need to discuss the garden with Davor, who’s on site today with his gardening crew, installing the irrigation system.

Last week, I agreed with Toni that, instead of being flush with the pool terrace (Miro’s preferred option), the ground level would be split, with a step up from the lawn to the pool area. This slightly changed my planting plan, so I wanted to go over everything with Davor, before they started.

Gardeners removing unwanted planter in Kovaci IstriaI needn’t have bothered! We found the soil lapping the pool terrace: Miro’s had his way! I’m irritated, but Davor says it’s probably for the best. But it now means we don’t need the tile planter Toni has built for me. I must say I’m surprised to see it: I’d simply mentioned it as an idea and hadn’t expected him to actually make it. Much to everyone’s amusement, before starting on the irrigation, the first thing the gardeners do is dig it out!

While they’re digging, a discussion develops about where to put the parking area light (it’s sensor-activated, so will come on when guests drive in). The only high spot is in a tree (Miro’s and my suggestion). Davor doesn’t approve of lights in trees and wants it on top of the gatepost. I’m sure that’s not high enough, and the light will shine in people’s eyes, rather than on their cars. With Miro’s support, I win the argument. I just hope the branches don’t keep setting it off! (I think they will … and if they don’t, the constant movement of the tree in the wind will. I’d have supported Davor – P)


Bathroom bits – part one

While the gardeners start work on the irrigation, Miro and I head off to the local builder’s merchant. I want some panelling to hide bathroom sink pipe-work and something to cover the corrugated toilet outflow-pipes (the ugliest things you’ve ever seen). I’ve discussed this repeatedly with both Miro and Toni, but never seem to get anywhere. Today, Miro decides to find out what I really want – and this involves a trip to the builder’s yard.

His initial idea is far grander than mine and he’s relieved when he finally realises I just want simple, white surrounds. He orders the wood and I cross my fingers that we’ve actually understood each other this time.


Kitchen progress?

When we get back, there’s still no sign of Teuta’s Dad delivering units, so I decide to head to Hiža and find out what was going on. “He’s close-by, in Kaštelir, and said he’ll deliver them this afternoon,” says Teuta. “He’ll get the key from the builders.” “No he won’t,” I say, “There’s no-one on-site.” So, key in hand, I jump straight in the car and head back to Kovaci.

Gardeners digging to install irrigation at Kovaci, Istria“Are you delivering the stuff this afternoon?” I ask, handing the key over. “No, it’s far too hot! I’m exhausted! I’m finished for the day!” Why did I need to drive all this way? I could have just left the key with Teuta!

Oh well, what do you say? It’s a scorching day – well over 30°C: he is well over 60 and he does look exhausted. I’m not a monster (no, really): I’ll call Teuta in the morning and check it’ll all come tomorrow.

Calling Teuta first thing, I find she’s just back from the hospital again, this time with her Dad. “It’s too hot for him to work,” she says. “The doctors have told him to take it easy.” With her husband still in bed (but getting better) and her Dad now grounded by the doctor, Teuta spent the rest of the day phoning round for help. It’s lined up for next week, but as Monday’s another public holiday, that won’t be until Tuesday at the earliest. At least I now know where I stand and can forget about the kitchen for now. Just hope it happens next week.

With the kitchen on hold and the rest of the place galloping towards completion, I end the day with some shopping: choosing bedspreads, curtains and cushions. It’s fun when you find exactly what you need – it happens so rarely here!

I’d actually wanted bright, summery colours, but they seem out of fashion this year. (I had several abortive shopping sessions last week, trying to find exactly what I wanted, with no success). Instead, my palette’s ended up far more sophisticated: glossy brown, burgundy and cream. Not what I had in mind, but I think it’ll look great, if we ever get the bedroom furniture to go with it!


Planting time

Planting pocket by pool at Kovaci, Istria with passionflower and gazeniasHigh summer is not a good time to be planting a garden and, with temperatures soaring ever upwards, I’m seriously wondering if I’m crazy pushing this forward. As Davor says, it would make far more sense to wait until cooler September.

Unfortunately we can’t wait. I’m still clinging to the hope we’ll get everything finished in time for guests later in the summer – time that’s rapidly running out! But even if that doesn’t happen, we need to take publicity photos so we can advertise the place as soon as possible for next year.

Planting up house pergola in Kovaci, Istria - campsis, sage & coreopsisBy Thursday, the irrigation system’s installed and softening the ground ready for the lawn to be sown next week, so I spend a couple of days shopping for plants for the beds: climbers, lavenders, herbs and some splashes of colour. With the planting season well gone, there’s very little choice, but I eventually track down what I’m looking for.

Saturday morning: I’m up at 6 am and at Kovaci, with a car full of plants, by 7:45 (it’s already 24°C). I’ve a long planting session ahead of me and want to get as much done as possible, before it’s too hot to work outside. As for the plants, I just hope the irrigation system will combat the heat, so they thrive rather than fry!

It’s hot, thirsty work, so I’m extremely grateful to Miro and crew who turn up around midday and offer me a drink – beer diluted with coke! Honest, it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds. It’s very refreshing and the sugar in the coke gives me the lift I need to finish my planting.


Bathroom bits – part two

Flowerbed in parking area at Kovaci, Istria planted with little lavendersBut what are they doing here? On Monday, Miro and I went shopping for bathroom ‘pipework-screen-making’ material. He’s now ready to show me the result. If I like it, he’ll make the rest.

While the three bathroom loos need their outflow pipe covering, only two of the sinks need surrounds. The one in the barn bathroom doesn’t need one – so you can guess which sink he did first! When I point this out, he rightly replies that I’d been there when he was measuring it up and hadn’t said anything. I’d thought he’d simply been looking for proof of concept and with my hopeless Croatian hadn’t wanted to say anything, in case I confused things. Oh well, it looks good (even if it isn’t needed), which is the main thing.

While they’re here, and in the bathroom, I ask them to put up the bathroom cabinets. Large, expensive items, they’re far too heavy for me to try installing, even with P’s assistance. I’m so glad I asked: as soon as Miro lifts the first one into place, it’s clear they are way too big. I need to find something much smaller. I just hope I can take them back. I guess I’ll find out next week


Also see

Restoration diary:



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