I have been experimenting with ways to diffuse the situation. Before I went on my cruise I tried appeasement; being excessively polite and friendly in the hope he would respond. That didn't work as I think he then saw me as weak and would therefore let him get away with being as rude and aggressive as he liked. I was also not sincere in my friendliness and I think most people can sense when someone is not being congruent. In the week before I left he was particularly obnoxious and I lost my temper and met anger with anger, although it wasn't quite even as he had a large barbeque fork in his hand at the time! This certainly didn't work as my anger just fed the flames of his.
Then I left for two and a half months and assumed that when I returned, whatever had got him so angry would have died over time. I gave him a bright 'Good Morning' when I first saw him but only a grunt was returned. Very quickly I realised that he was still very angry - almost certainly I wasn't the cause, but I was the focus. One day he seemed to tip over the edge when I was on the phone whilst walking Bonny on the towpath opposite the mooring. It was the middle of the afternoon but I was speaking quite loudly as the person I was talking to is a little hard of hearing. All of a sudden I heard screamed swear words of the worst sort. I looked back and saw Mr Angry yelling at me, spittle spraying from his mouth. The general gist I think was that I shouldn't be talking on the phone within his earshot. That was particularly illogical as both he and his partner regularly walk past my boat in full flow on the phone.
This was a turning point for me. As people turned to see what was happening and I saw what they saw - a man totally out of control, I realised that Mr Angry couldn't help how he was at that moment. That level of anger and frustration is like an illness and I would never take someone's illness personally. They can't help it and it would be silly of me to hold it against them. I also realised that I couldn't help him either as for some reason I am the object of his rage - or at least the outlet for it. The best thing I can do is not provide any fuel for the flames. So since that day I have not looked at or spoken to him. I haven't reacted to his words or scowls. I have just carried on my own life as if he wasn't there. I don't think that has lessened his ire but it's very hard to fight with someone who won't engage at all. I suspect that's what Jesus meant when he advised us to turn the other cheek.He wasn't advising that we become permanent victims - rather by rising above the conflict and not letting it get to us, we end up freeing ourselves (and probably really winding up our enemy!!)
I have also had a less comfortable insight. A boat came and moored opposite us and stayed for a couple of nights. I really thought I had risen above letting this bother me - I haven't. I've been spoilt, as BW or as they are known now CART (Canal and River Trust, or putting the cart before the horse tee hee) haven't cut the undergrowth on the towpath for ages and as a consequence no one has moored opposite since I returned. But this couple did and then ran their noisy engine. I found myself increasingly resentful and at one point when the squeak in their engine reacted on me like nails on a blackboard, I found myself shouting 'Will you please shut up!' I hastened to add I did this out of their earshot, but all of a sudden I was in touch with the same sort of anger that I imagine Mr Angry feels. My anger wasn't logical - they have every right to moor opposite me and run their engine, but that didn't stop me feeling that frustration. The only reason the people in the boat didn't suffer from my anger is that I have enough self awareness to realise how illogical I was being and enough self control to keep my anger to myself.
As with everything that happens to us in life, it contains a lesson for me to learn and the very thing that frightens me or winds me up will almost certainly continue to happen until I have learnt that lesson. Continuing not to react to Mr Angry is also a really good ongoing exercise in self control for me!