Tark and Mara Discover What That Awful Spatling Woman Was Really Up To

In a universe somehow even more like here than here seems to be, Tark entered his 12th-storey penthome with uncharacteristic timidity. His head was bowed, allowing low-flying winter sunbeams to glance off his bald pate with topspin worthy of Wimbledon.

There was only one thing in this universe Tark was healthily petrified of, and she was standing in the atrium with garden shears in her skeletal hands.

“Hello darling,” said Mara, wiping her brow with the cuff of her €13,500 Gucci silk gardening glove.

Tark frowned. “It’s rather an odd time of year for horticulture, my cutaneous chérie.”

“I’ve been thinning out the gardeners. There were far too many. They were giving me a headache.”

Embed from Getty Images


Mara dropped the gardening shears to the floor with a clatter and shed her gloves on top of them. One of the maids would pick everything up later. Her eyes narrowed, taking in Tark’s hunched shoulders.

“Spit it out, husband,” she said. “Whatever it is, it’s unlikely to annoy me as much as the weeping and wailing I’ve been hearing from the newly unemployed in the past hour.”

“I don’t know about that,” said Tark. “You might want to sit down.”

“You know I never sit on Saturdays. Tell me. Did our candidate for the World Bank get caught at an anti-poverty demonstration?”

“No,” said Tark. “In fact, he confirmed receipt of the island we sent him.”

“Is our residence for tax purposes being investigated again?”

“No, my fiscal fugitive. It’s that dreadful Spurting woman.”

Mara made a noise in her throat like a regurgitating eagle. “Don’t tell me she wants her blog back.”

“Well, yes, but we’ve long outgrown it, have we not? So I don’t really care about that. No, it’s about what she’s been doing for the past month.”

“What could she possibly have been doing in a writing cave in Siberia that we’d care about?”

“That’s just the thing. She wasn’t in a writing cave, and Siberia wasn’t a euphemism. She was actually there. In Siberia, I mean.”

“I beg your pardon?”


Tark and Mara Discover What That Awful Spalding Woman Was Really Up To

clickety-clack…. clickety-clack…


Tark cleared his throat. “She was travelling, it seems. Apparently she didn’t declare it beforehand under some misguided apprehension that someone might take advantage, or something. How perfectly ridiculous! Who would burgle her tiny glorified shed, in a postcode of Dublin which makes us retch to even think of it?”

“She… lied to us??” A vein on Mara’s temple throbbed with violent intent. Normally prominent in any event, it was now threatening to get its own agent. “Where the hell was she?”

“On the Trans-Siberian railway, believe it or not. Russia, Mongolia, and China. And then Vietnam, although I don’t know how the hell that’s supposed to fit in.”

“Her! That sanctimonious, carb-eating, talentless harridan? Of all the… you know I always suspected her of being a socialist, Tark. But how the hell did she do it? Isn’t she supposed to be broke, not to mention an indentured slave of the banking industry?”

“She got a bit of time off, apparently. As for the rest, I don’t know.”

“Well, what did she say? About the blog? How we changed the world in her absence?”

“Nothing, actually. She seemed very… zen, or something. It was quite disconcerting. There was no anger in her at all, and she kept smiling at me. This is what I didn’t want to tell you. I’m afraid she looked–” Tark swallowed. “I’m afraid she looked happy. There was no cynicism. No bitterness. No problem.

Tark and Mara Discover What That Awful Spalding Woman Was Really Up To

Just you try to be angry in this landscape. See? You can’t.


Mara’s jaw dropped in horror. “You cannot be serious.”

Tark’s resident frown deepened. “For one terrible moment I wondered if perhaps she’d missed the fact that we’d changed the world in November, not to mention the fact that we used her blog to do it.”

“Never,” Mara scoffed. “You’ve got to remember just how much the super-rich got away with last month alone, and indeed how much they’re getting away with at this very moment.”

Tark nodded. “Exactly. Our strategy has been a resounding success. No, I realised that her composure is entirely due to the fact that she hasn’t been living in the real world, for weeks now.”

Mara was in such a state of flux that she actually picked up her own gloves, placing them on the 16th century marble table their housekeeper had once timidly requested to be used for items which technically did not belong on the floor. “But what does this mean for us? That she lied, I mean. To be fair, you know I couldn’t really care whether she lives or dies, unless I’m getting something out of it.”

“Well, the way I see it, she thinks she used us to cover up her whereabouts in November.”

Mara’s eyes narrowed into a look of such impeccable malevolence that a passing seagull shrieked and veered off course. “I don’t like her thinking she won, Tark. I really don’t.”

“As if I’d allow that, my punitive princess,” Tark said witheringly.

Mara had the grace to look corrected, if not abashed. “Of course not, darling.”

“No, we can still turn this to our advantage. Don’t forget how vastly superior our popularity is to hers. People were begging us to take over her blog permanently, if you recall.”

“And there were all those bribes, too,” Mara agreed.

“If she’d gone to the Americas, say, or the Horn of Africa, our job would be trickier. But now that she’s been on a whistle-stop tour of Asian communism, we have her exactly where we want her.”

“Prison?” Mara said hopefully.

“All in good time, my dear. But for now, she’s lost all credibility. Nobody’s going to listen to a left-wing pinko’s views on the book business. It would be like taking advice from a taxidermist about how to look after a puppy.”

Mara’s shoulders subsided from their artillery position. “That’s true.”

“She’s played right into our hands, my lethal love. First, we take Manhattan–”

“Then we take Dublin,” Mara breathed.


  30 comments for “Tark and Mara Discover What That Awful Spatling Woman Was Really Up To

  1. December 2, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    The sound of the wheels on the tracks in that clip is hypnotic! Fabulous

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 2, 2017 at 5:09 pm

      It does tend to gentle you into sleep, Orla. Or vivid daydreams. I enjoyed both thoroughly.


  2. annerallen
    December 2, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Tara, that clip is amazing. I could almost smell the diesel fumes. 🙂 That’s probably as close as I’ll ever get to the Trans-Siberian railroad, so thanks for the bit of vicarious adventure.

    Tark and Mara have done a fine job of entertaining us while you’ve been traveling, but you might have to contact a fictional lawyer about getting your blog back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • December 2, 2017 at 6:37 pm

      I don’t know if I’m more excited about a fictional lawyer or the idea of fictional law, Anne. I’ll get right on it.


  3. December 2, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    Tara! Thank god! There’s some ghastly people squatting on your blog! Stop playing with trains and give them a jolly good telling off. They really are frightful. I fear they may be planning something hideous, like inviting Jacob Rees Mogg over for tea.

    Liked by 2 people

    • December 2, 2017 at 6:55 pm

      Don’t worry, my babbity friend. I can confirm that I have hereby weaponised Zen, and will be deploying it upon the entire right wing by teatime tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. December 2, 2017 at 7:06 pm

    Weaponized Zen is probably the best invention of 2017, and it’s all your Ms. Sparling. What a marvelous trip of discovery you must have had- there is not a solitary chance on earth that I would ever take such a chance. On earth. Brava.

    You’ll be pleased to hear that in your absence we’ve come up with a new catchphrase “eat the rich”. I’m sure your privileged squatters will be just delighted to know how much interest people are really showing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 2, 2017 at 7:26 pm

      YAY!!! Thanks, Will! What do I get for invention of the year?? There must be a prize! Is it an underground laboratory? A hairless cat? A Swiss bank account? And when do I get it? I’m so excited!!

      Oh, crap. There goes the Zen.


  5. December 2, 2017 at 8:56 pm

    What a trip, Tara. The stark beauty compared to the super posh luxury of Dublin. We missed you, and to be frank Tark and Mara thought two posts were the equivalent of taking over a blog. They clearly have no idea or their post-writing help was underpaid. I was thinking that they might move to the US now that we’ve gotten rid of taxes for the billionaire class. Of course, they’d have to wade through the millions of newly poor. Socialism is sounding better and better.

    Liked by 3 people

    • December 2, 2017 at 11:28 pm

      I agree completely, Diana. Their posting schedule was pathetic. I mean, it wasn’t like THEY were on the train (as if they could even contemplate sharing transport with the great unwashed, let alone becoming the great unwashed themselves, seeing that the trains don’t have showers).
      I would make a joke about the tax bill, but even I can’t find the funny side of that, I’m afraid.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. December 2, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Can I have an agent for one of my veins too, please? You could sell the virtual reality trans-Siberian experience as a new device to send babies to sleep along the lines of the stuffed parrot we once had – you pulled a ring on a string between his legs (very worrying idea to a small child) and the Brahms lullaby (sort-of) came out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 2, 2017 at 11:30 pm

      So many ways to make money, Hilary, so little time… I’ll be your vein agent (veingent? veinagent??) if you like. I can promise flight socks and regular blood lettings.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. December 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Oooo! That looks brilliant, Tara! 😀 I’m afraid trains are no longer my favourite mode of transport (25 years of London commuting put paid to that one! 😛 ), but some locomotive journeys are the exception & the trans-Siberian is a douzy. Glad you had a wonderful time – all that snow must have put you into a festering seasonal mood as well! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 4, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      I never had to commute by train, Jan, which is probably why I love them so much! The TransSiberian is rough & ready but it’s worth it. I’m a bit dazed by all the Christmas stuff still tbh… but getting there 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  8. December 3, 2017 at 11:46 pm

    I’m with Tark and Mara. A friend of mine has just returned from Oz, New Zealand and Hong Kong so I must admit to having a lot of sympathy with those left behind. Luckily you didn’t send hourly whatsapp photos sharing an experience they will never get to share. #notbitter #jealous

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 4, 2017 at 8:53 pm

      I used manful restraint when it came to the social media update thing Tric but good grief it was hard… just kidding! Wasn’t hard at all. Being surrounded by 10,875 people taking selfies is the greatest social media prophylactic there is 😂


      • December 4, 2017 at 9:39 pm

        Or having a fella with you who is physically incapable of taking selfies of us without his finger in the photo or his face looking like he’s pondering a major problem in life.

        Liked by 1 person

        • December 4, 2017 at 9:44 pm

          But that actually sounds interesting! I thought it was expressly prohibited for selfies to be interesting. At least the ones I’ve seen anyway…

          Liked by 1 person

  9. December 4, 2017 at 1:39 pm

    A happy Tara? Whatever’s next, a socialist Trump?

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 4, 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Hmmm. Unlikely, but least I know what happy means, Nick, let alone the state of being so!

      Liked by 1 person

      • December 5, 2017 at 9:33 am

        Lol-fair enough. It’s good to see you happy, actually. The trip sounds amazing; I’m glad it was such a success 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  10. December 4, 2017 at 2:16 pm

    Sounds like a wonderful trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. December 4, 2017 at 2:22 pm

    Oops pressed enter too soon above, That train journey looks breath takingly awesome, I’d definitely have the tip of my nose and my tongue frozen to the window (candy store on the outside this time). I have a train thing, but the train to Wexford is so scarce, I don’t need a notebook to record details etc. We’ve traversed South Africa a few times but THIS trip’s been on my bucket list since I read Agatha Christie about 30 odd yrs ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • December 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      It was, Liberty. Can’t deny it. Best holiday I ever had. I’ll shut up now. But it was pretty damn spectacular. Can’t recommend it enough. Just bring enough baby wipes, bog roll and noodles 😁

      Liked by 1 person

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