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HANDY MAC: Attracting trouble

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After much decluttering and tidying, the Mac household then came under attack by an army of ants

Last week, I wrote the following: “I am a little nervous to leave my laptop this morning as Mrs Mac is watching Marie Kondo the clean-up person, so I get the feeling I am in for another day of saying goodbye to old friends.”

I had good reason to be nervous because we spent the rest of the weekend decluttering and chucking out lots of stuff, some going to Hospice and other worthy causes.

I have to admit the more I did, the more I wanted to do. Yes, you make some hard decisions, but once you get over the initial mindset of resistance to dumping, it becomes fun.

We discovered many old favourites which are now on display in spaces we did not know we had. I also found that, within a week, I have become a much tidier person because there is now a place for everything and everything is in its place. I even have dividers in my sock drawer.

I am looking forward to carrying on with other rooms – the garage looms large. But nothing is ever normal in the MacAlister household. I was feeling very organised at work when the above photo arrived from Mrs Mac. She was under ant attack.

Ants are drawn to electromagnetic fields, such as those found in computers. Picture: Supplied

I have been amazed during the past couple of weeks that there have not been any ants in the obvious places in the kitchen – they had all moved into Mrs Mac’s study and into her many computer devices, from the router to her UPS – literally thousands of them.

The internet says: “Research has shown that some ant species are capable of detecting electromagnetic fields and may even use the earth’s magnetic field as a directional cue as they search for food or nest sites. Their attraction to man-made electrical devices may be an accidental evolutionary by-product of this natural ability.”

Handy Mac says: “Mrs Mac, stop snacking at your desk!” Normality has returned, the ants lured away with honey and Epsom salts, and apparently no serious damage done.

Q and A

Some cracks are the result of bad plastering. Picture: Pawel-Czerwinski

Uncle Phie has asked me: Q: My sister bought a new house on black clay soil from a developer in Pretoria. The house is cracking and it’s two years old. Is this normal? Basically, all rooms have horizontal and vertical cracks. Now she needs advice in claiming for a new house in another area. What’s the best legal recourse?

A: As I wrote a couple of months ago, there are cracks and then there are cracks. In all buildings settlement cracks are normal. It could just be a case of bad plastering, but clay soil can be a problem.

So, the first thing to do is to seek the advice of a structural engineer and get an assessment. I assume the developer is refusing to rectify the problem, so you need facts to back up any arguments. If the house was a new build, the developer should have registered it with the The National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and they do cover cracking.

So, get the NHBRC registration number from the developer and lay a complaint with them. If the house was properly registered, the NHBRC should have checked and signed off the foundations. If it was not registered, an engineer or the building inspector should have signed it off.

I am not sure of the by-laws in Pretoria but in Cape Town the foundations are tested to ensure the house is built on solid ground. If the tests show poor soil, the builder will be instructed to carry out additional excavations, pour extra concrete or, in severe cases, put piles down to carry the foundations.

If the house was bought with a bond from a bank, the bank would have insisted it was registered with the NHBRC. As our new democracy grew, more people began buying homes in the formal sector, but houses were built cheaply by poor developers looking to make easy money.

The buyer stopped paying their bonds when trouble with buildings began to develop, so the banks approached the government and the building industry to get some form of control and guarantee in place to protect themselves and the purchasers.

I am not a legal expert, but you would be wasting your time and money if you asked for legal assistance before collecting all the facts and ensuring that you have enough evidence to prove it is not possible to live in the house, because it is structurally unsafe and the developer has refused to repair it.


One of the most rewarding results of writing this column is when I get feedback from a professional. Mark has sent me the following on swimming pools: As a national committee member with the National Spa and Pool Institute of South Africa (NSPI), and with 35 years’ experience working in the swimming pool industry, I’d like to offer your reader my advice.

Fibreglass pools that are handlaminated onto a concrete shell or manufactured as a “drop-in shell” are slightly easier to maintain than a marbelite surface. This is because of the synthetic, smooth finish of Fibreglass.

The water chemistry demands on both types of finishing are exactly the same and both finishes – should the water chemistry not be properly maintained – are susceptible to failure, staining, algae, etc. Your reader, Kate, is welcome to contact the Gauteng NSPI chapter at 011 791 1177 or where they will be happy to provide a list of members she can contact.

Tip of the week

Caring neighbours are important. Picture: Supplied

The above photo made me think that maybe one of the best tips I can offer is to encourage people to become involved in their neighbourhood.

I drove around the corner on my way home the other night only to see this sign newly planted. It made me realise that I live in a neighbourhood that cares. 

We have a small local WhatsApp group to report on what is happening or potential trouble. Having seen the sign, I am now going to put out a general notice to the group and ask everyone what they do and how we could be of assistance to each other if and when necessary.

We are probably a collection of plus-minus 35 families and I am sure we are going to find some talents than can be used to help one another. A plumber and a mechanic would be a great start, but someone can check your insurance maths in exchange for a haircut or could mow a lawn for getting a pool sparkling clean.

Who knows what might be waiting around the corner? I will report back on this when I see the response,. Fingers crossed.


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