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Fireworks to Start the Year

January 1st 2009
I have heard it said that the way you see in the New Year will betoken an omen for the forthcoming twelvemonth. In general I don’t go with these superstitions though I do have to concede that fallings asleep before midnight on the 31st in recent years have preceded a general tendency to do this on most days in the succeeding months, however this year we stayed up for the bonging of the bells.
Of course we were in bed while many of our brothers and sisters were still prancing, as continental Europe is an hour ahead of the UK, which makes the whole thing so absurd; if I had happened to be in the UK this year instead of Italy and had gone to bed at exactly the age that I did, then I, who will have lived for exactly the same amount of time wherever I was, would have been in bed at the magic hour, whereas I was standing on our loggia at this particular, chronologically different but symbolically similar hour watching the sparks of the Italians setting off their fireworks.
Italians light fireworks on New Year’s Eve, all a bit randomly, and with a fair number of accidents. This year there was one death and just short of 400 injuries, including a couple of lost hands and some, slightly less unfortunate, who only lost a finger or two. This loss of limb comes from not letting go of the firework soon enough.
The death happened in Naples and, as with almost everything that happens in Naples was not as straightforward as it first seemed. A man standing on a balcony watching the firework displays was hit in the neck by a ‘projectile’, that was at first reported to be a rocket, but was subsequently discovered to be a bullet from a pistol. Local people reported seeing a 22-year-old woman fire the pistol, and she was at first nowhere to be found. She subsequently reported to the prison, (it said in the paper), accompanied by her lawyer, protesting her innocence and saying that the first she knew about it was when she saw the newspaper. This sounds like a weak excuse, until you read on and discover that she was the daughter of a Camorra (the local Mafia) boss who is currently in prison, her brother being partly instrumental in this having turned supergrass. This would make her incarceration in certain prisons locally extremely dangerous for her. Added to the complexity of the case was the fact that although she was nominally living some way away, her grandmother lived in the same block of flats as the man who was shot. The local police have the job of unravelling this muddle; something for which their reputation is not what you might call world-renowned. The case has since disappeared from the papers and will undoubtedly stay that way.


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