Garrets

One of the things which irritates me in my own writing, and in others’ is accidental or careless repetition, when the same word, words or phrase are used close to each other or noticeably too often. In my own writing it really, really annoys me when I’ve finished something and am reading it out in one of the writing groups I belong to, or worse still, realise it after a book is published. Probably no-one else notices, but it irks me.

In my latest and i hope soon and at last to be published book, Winterdyke, the main character Thomas Radwinter accepts a commission to do an extensive history of an immensely wealthy man, Gerald Robespierre – and he is invited to stay in his client’s home, which he discovers is an actual mansion. The place becomes snow-bound and it’s virtually impossible to get out and go anywhere, so to take a break from his research, Thomas pulls on warm clothes and goes for a walk round the outside of the Athelmond Grange:

I set off, looking up at the house, trying to get a feel of it from the outside. Inside it seemed like a series of unexpected rooms, unexpected corridors and staircases, which had the propensity to lead an unwary guest astray. Agatha Christie would have had a field day here. The dull red brick made looked almost bloody against the surrounding whiteness, quite sinister somehow.
All the garden features were lost, but I could imagine them as they had been in the time of the first Robespierres who lived here, beneath the mantle of white, the sweeping driveway, the partially walled front garden with its lovely lawns and borders. Google Earth had shown nothing of interest now, plain lawns apart from one area at the other end which was more formal. Gone were the low hedges, the brick and gravel pathways and their herbaceous borders were invisible. I could see. In former times there had been an extensive summer house and a garden cottage and tennis courts. A great yew, dark and menacing, still squatted near the gate we had entered; according to something I’d read, it had been planted by Oliver Cromwell.
I couldn’t see the mansard roof of the Grange; another name for a mansard is a French roof or curb roof. Mansard, now that’s a word I’d not come across before; according to Wikipedia it is –

a four-sided gambrel-style hip roof characterized by two slopes on each of its sides with the lower slope, punctured by dormer windows, at a steeper angle than the upper. The steep roof with windows creates an additional floor of habitable space (an attic or garret – what’s the difference? I wondered), and reduces the overall height of the roof for a given number of habitable stories. The upper slope of the roof may not be visible from street level when viewed from close proximity to the building.

Thomas ponders on the word garret. What I have suddenly realised, this late in the day that there is a character in the novel also called Garrett – with two ‘t’s. A minor thing but I had to change it – however, the name was so stuck in my head that I kept it almost the same:

I started investigating Ellis Garratt Robespierre, the maybe son of old Gerald Robespierre. His marriage certificate was easy to find (in fact he’d been married twice, first wife, Juliana Rowland died – sad and unusual these days) She’d had a child, unnamed, just ‘boy’ and no further mention of him, so maybe he’d died too although I tried to search for him in other areas.  Ellis had married Heidi and in fact she was English. She may have moved to America as a child, student or adult, I couldn’t tell, but she was English, there she was Heidi Elaine Jordan, born 1961 so a similar age to Ellis.

I’m still wondering whether beneath the mansard roof there should be just attics, and forget about the garrets.

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