By Joe Ribton
The Upside-Down, The Bermuda Triangle, The Twilight Zone, The Road to Nowhere, The Oasis, The Matrix, The Sunken Place, The Conservative Party Head Office… All of these awful places exist on different planes in different dimensions, but a higher power has made them overlap in one unexpected place…
The badlands situated between New Malden, Raynes Park, Kingston Upon Thames and Richmond Park is a cross-section of society like no other. All of the people that the Illuminati don’t want you to meet, all living in one place that my parents decided we would call home about 5 years ago. I was allowed to escape to university for 3 of those years, but now I’m home and more convinced of its Twin Peaks-esque weirdness than ever before. The case I’ll make in this blog is that “Coombe” – in angrily exaggerated air quotes – exists as a dumping ground for a strange assortment of characters, much like the basement of the Westworld labs, as well as staging a smorgasbord of the most awful crimes Netflix could ever document.
Let’s begin with meeting the neighbours. We moved in around 2014, then Chelsea striker Demba Ba lived directly over the road, Edin Hazard round the corner and Branislav Ivanovic a few doors down. We were sold a dream. We’d never spot any of these elusive ballers, save for glimpses of Hazard’s maseratis. Oh well, my parents accidentally bought Petr Cech’s kitchen off of gumtree, but that’s a whole other story. Neighbours we actually have met are a strange, strange bunch. There’s an old couple who used to be arms dealers, living in a house decorated like they were already in mallorca having it large ex-pat stylez. Theres also a hospice for people with mental illnesses, which is pretty normal for a quiet suburb like Coombe. What isn’t normal, however, is how frequently members of this hospital jailbreak and end up being caught by police in the bushes near my house. And then there’s the Russian Oligarchs. When Salisbury happened, it was followed the next day by the much forgotten murder of Russian businessman and Putin rebel Nikolai Glushkov. He was due in court back in Russia to begin a €90 million lawsuit against Putin, but was strangled to death in his own home, guess fucking where, around the corner.
This wasn’t even the first murder to occur near my house. In 2017 a young woman was raped, murdered and put in a freezer in an abandoned house on my street in an honour killing. Murders based on wrongly subverted Muslim teachings AND on the political whim of Vladimir Putin, both within 5 minute walk of my house. How can one place be so multinational when it comes to murder, but painfully old and white when it comes to voting for a new MP.
I read about both of those crimes in the papers, it took a little while longer to experience the weirdness first hand. All of my family had gone on holiday, it was just my girlfriend, Ruby the dog and I, and it was 1am. I had just gone to sleep when my girlfriend shook me awake. “There are police in your front garden” she said, with the nervous blunt edge of a young couple alone in a big dark house. She wasn’t wrong, blue and red lights lit up my room, which is on the ground floor and looks onto the driveway/front garden/crime scene. We could hear loud sweary shouting and exhausted scuffling as someone was arrested right outside my window for stabbing another man. He had thrown his knife into the bushes that lined my front garden, like the selfish person he was. Not thinking at all of how that might impact my sleep.
And then there was last night. The weirdness truly never ends. I was walking back from a shift at the pub, it was half past 11 at night. I took the long way home to avoid the creepy dark estate and its rich ‘Get Out’ cast of inhabitants. On the main road, an uber slowed to a roll about 20 metres ahead of me. It was empty in the back and nobody was around, so I thought it was weird but was so close to home that I power walked past. A car in the opposite lane went by and the road went quiet again, the uber started up again until it was moving alongside me at my walking pace. The window rolled down and an overweight Asian man said “do you want a blowjob?”. In this moment I experienced a real spectrum of emotions. What has led this poor uber driver to this moment? Poverty? Closeted and repressed sexuality? I had a lot of sympathy for him as I told him “no, you’re alright thanks” and powered the last 20 metres to my house. I was also really quite scared and felt very vulnerable. I can laugh it off because, except for the fact he was in a car, I wasn’t at all physically threatened by this man. If I was younger, smaller, if I wasn’t built to fend off a guy that size I would have been terrified, 20 metres from my own home. So, avoid Coombe at all costs, don’t spread lies about our glorious leader Vladimir Putin and, finally, if you ever get in an uber with the registration number LV12 GVE ask the driver if everything’s okay.
The copy scores 68.8 in the Flesch Reading Ease test