What a globular sight!

Orange cleaner, falling night,

The smell of fish, stinking, right?

Shadowy hands and mind sublime,

The blanket, crumpled, creviced,

Bloodied thoughts that rape

The mind and savage the noble breast,

And men, who were depressed,

While busy women guessed,

The great unwashed they dressed

In hand-me-downs,

Bright kids, stupid kids

Wore puzzled frowns,

The scene replete with garish clowns,

The image plundered deep

Into the darkest recesses of his being,

Him seeing, a panorama, a jig-saw,

Stray dog peeing

On an Athen’s street

A rabid litter invaded the agora of

our mind,

Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Prada, Coach,

The lack of grind,

As Plato stood beneath Athena’s glance,

And he was led a merry, very scary dance,

As the Piper of Nike swirled around

Within his head,

And he imploded into the living dead…


Oh the weather outside is frightful…

I remember some years ago, way up in the far North, I staggered home, full of the Christmas spirit to a friend’s house in the wee small hours of the morning in search of a party and me in full voice, singing the above…to this day (and some years have elapsed!!) he says that every time he hears the song ‘Let it Snow’ he thinks of me…

I think that everyone at some level would like to be remembered for something decent but to be remembered as a carefree man full of youthful exuberance and high on the Christmas spirit only to be recollected in the mayhem of shopping, movies, and Christmas shindigs over the festive season would not be at the top of many people’s ‘This is how I want to be remembered lists!’

So Christmas is upon us. What will you remember this Christmas? Who will you think of or about? Christmas is a funny old time. I think it brings out the best and the worst in human nature. We spend ridiculous amounts of money (some of us do;-)) buying crap that nobody really wants or needs when we do have so many unfortunate souls on this planet. In the last few weeks I had the pleasure of spending a full day talking to a maternity nurse in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry: she was a fascinating woman. She was telling me all about the work that she does in Zambia, not in the way of self praise but in a really sincere way and conversational manner. And in spite of years of hearing it, in spite of having run the world, listened to the Band Aid song etc for the first time it really hit me-they really don’t know that it is Christmas in Africa or for that matter in streets not too far from where I sit writing this mail… I am not trying to jump on the sentimental bandwagon of Christmas guilt and I think that those of you who know me well enough will understand exactly what I am saying.

Then you have the kids-joyous, deliriously happy, hyper and the sheer magic and happiness that they give you/us/me compensates for so much of what is missing in our own lives. You cannot put a price on that-the wee smiley faces, the joy, the happiness…Then you have the family get-togethers. I caution you to enjoy them too because they are fast changing landscapes-families disintegrate and so on… and in the midst of it all of this we have absent friends…then you have the angst and worry of caring for those around you who are sick and infirm and all the stresses, strains of that. It isn’t easy at times but it’s worth it. That is the true spirit of Christmas. I exhort you to embrace all of that. Get up tomorrow and vow to do something positive, something that will make a difference to the life of just one person. Begin each day with hope.

My Christmas message to you is to ensure that those with whom you come in contact over the holidays remember you as a positive force in their lives. Even if you don’t get the Christmas that you wished for count your blessings. Remember the words of that old Irish strain: ‘Count your blessings one by one, For night has gone and day has just begun.’

Nollaig Shona agus Athbhliain faoi Mhaise daoibh uilig!

So you missed me?

I missed you too! Occasionally people would ask me how I managed the time to blog and I guess the most honest answer is that it’s a struggle hence the little hiatus; but hey I am back and that can only be bad news for you avid followers of my rants and ramblings from the outer edge of my own little universe. So from such distant climes, from the outer edge of my being I send you a letter:

Dear Readers,

How are you? I do hope that you are all managing to muster some Christmas cheer in this winter of discontent. Just when we thought that we had bottomed out on the bad news we find that we are only at the commencement of this odyssey of economic madness; a little like my own journey over the last few weeks I suppose. To mis-quote my old delusional world friend Forrest G: “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Well anyway I have been getting some odd ones in the last wee while.

My hiatus began with graduation. We had graduation at the College during the last week in November. Graduation is always a special occasion and ranks amongst the best parts of my job. It is an occasion filled with so many mixed emotions-the delight of the graduate, the pride of family, the pain of absent friends, the end of a journey, the beginning of another, the sense of achievement, the sense of fulfilment, the sense of celebration and the overlay of pomp and ceremony. Of course the downside for me as Dean of the School of Business is standing on the platform for hours on end reading countless names in the merciless heat, dressed like Santa, and discovering sweat glands that haven’t even yet been found by the world’s greatest athletes and evolutionary biologists. My favourite is the feeling that some plumber has surreptitiously installed water taps on the front of my knees and left them locked in the on position; I kid you not.

And I never yet told you of my trip to Shanghai and Taipei. China never ceases to amaze me. What a country! The industry, the progress, the improvement in society is visible, palpable and intoxicating. An interesting fact from my few days in Shanghai is that there are currently over 7,000 construction sites in the city, all of which will be completed in time for the World Exposition next year…simply stunning. It has been a year since my last visit to Shanghai and it’s almost like a different city; it’s as if the skyline literally changes before your eyes. It is a vibrant hub of hustle bustle. It is safe, it is exciting and bizarrely beautiful in a Chicago sort of way. There is just something there for everybody. Anyway at NCI we have committed to build in visits and placements and semesters abroad for our students in this wonderful centre of world trade. Keep an eye on this blog for more news on this.

From Shanghai I flew to Taipei. It was my first visit to Taiwan and I have to confess to being seriously impressed by the island. Indeed, next time I go visit I will take some leave and explore what is a beautiful, mountainous and verdant location. Downtown Taipei is modern, classy and architecturally beautiful. The city exudes wealth and success. The Taiwanese are friendly, relaxed, welcoming and remarkably hospitable to visitors in a way which we like to think and believe that we are. It was a busy visit from a work perspective and I only had one little tourist fix…dinner in the Panorama Restaurant in the 101, up until recently the tallest building in the world. I have to tell you about this.

So I am up in the restaurant with some colleagues and I get up from the table and go for a walk around to check out the panoramic views. I squeeze in behind busy tables and think to myself- great views but they should really have had a decent viewing point. I am feeling a little smug at locating what I perceive to be an architectural design flaw…until several pints and glasses of wine later when nature calls! I make my way to the gents and walk over to the urinal and what can I say? Wow (talking about the view here!!). The view as I answer nature’s call is scary, spectacular and simply amazing as I stand and pee in a triangular glass urinal that seems as if it is jutting out over the edge of a different world than the one from where I write…the 101 almost became the 202!

Anyway, my friends…I must off and journey home. More from me anon. I promise to write more frequently. I have chided myself. Suitably chastened I take my leave.




As winter gathers in around me,

I feel as if I’m choking

On the damp, dark cloth of a November sky,

My whole being can just about proffer

An involuntary sigh that blends unnoticed

With stiffening breeze of darker nights

No longer even the comforting glow

Of the coal fire

No longer the family huddle

No more the verbal familial cuddle,

All is changed

As winter gathers in around me

The winter of a new age

Dark, damp, damp, dark cloth

Of a November sky

Grips my very being


And scrapes at my existence.

It was the Friday before Hallowe’en. It was a wet, murky and dismal night out and strangely absent all of that usual Keatsian, autumnal mellow fruitfulness, and golden leaf fall save for the occasional passing glow of a weather-beaten pumpkin being chased by the even more occasional posse of pumpkin lights, adorning the even rarer occasional home. “Where did Hallowe’en go?”, Frank inquired of anyone who would listen amongst a gaggle of excited grandchildren, who sported ghoulish and garish masks fashioned that same afternoon from old cereal boxes and who were now busily engaged in trying to scare the living daylights out of one another; and really only managing to create a cacophony of noise that made Frank grateful for the first time ever that he was hard of hearing. In truth the question was more rhetorical than asked of anyone in particular. He also knew better than to expect an answer from anyone but himself; and so for the remainder of the journey home to his house by the shore he grew even deafer to the loudening din that kept him company as he faced into the Hallowe’en weekend seeking an answer to the question that he had just posed.

For some random reason he started thinking about home. Not his current home by the shore but the home in which he grew up in in leaner times. He let his mind wander back to a small thatched cottage at the bottom of a mucky lane on the outskirts of the village of Dromore in the heart of West Tyrone. As he wandered he tried to unpack the wrappings of nostalgia which proved, for a moment or two at least, much easier to do than he could ever have imagined. It was in truth a meagre and frugal existence that formed the threadbare weave of the cloak that sat loose on the stooped shoulders of the McCusker clan. He deliberately sought out the nuggets of negativity, he intentionally, maybe even greedily, fondled the memory of hunger; he eagerly and frantically opened the empty parcels of birthdays past, and he gratefully felt the ice on the inside of the windows of yesteryear as he inexplicably but willingly sashayed from cold to pain, from disappointment to shame, from a straw bed of denial to the grudging glow of the tilly lamp. It always angered him when he listened to those who continually romanticised  all of what neither he nor they could ever really have had.

Then his memory unexpectedly collided with the happier moments: the smell and glow of the turf fire; the heaped pots of new potatoes drowning in freshly churned butter; the dressed turkey; the hand-knitted arans; the camaraderie of the bog or the hay-field; and the meandering sounds of Radio Eireann. He acknowledged only to himself that perhaps there was no way in which the oft discussed two core dimensions of our existence, happiness and joy, can really be separated out. Maybe it was all to easy to build walls within the walls that corralled in our own being. Maybe there is no good side nor green grassy verge down memory lane no more than there is dirt and muck and the uneven rutted surface that characterises life’s very own dusky pathway. He quickly and quietly found himself acquiescing to a view of life that was constructed of walls, closed in by more walls; yet walls that weren’t impervious to the seeping damp of life’s unrelenting realities. Equally he accepted that those same walls would eventually crumble  (they always do) as the seeping segued into a flow which became a crashing wave. And equally he recognised that more walls would be stupidly and mistakenly reconstructed and washed away, and once again foolishly reconstructed and washed away and so on, over and over in a hopeless inescapable cycle until the sheer welcoming, embracing and glimmering reality of that which we try to deny, push away or wall off stands unmoving and steadfastly before us.

As he flitted between his own images and experiences on either side of these walls he found Hallowe’en. He found a warm and glowing range, a table laden with bowls of home-made rice, and apple cake after after apple cake laid neatly alongside rows of shiny and sticky toffee apples. There was a pot of stew bubbling away; pumpkin soup simmering; and bottles of stout arranged neatly on the old mahogany dresser. In another corner there sat a green basin with rosy red apples swimming in freshly drawn well water poured from a white Delft bucket with a faded blue rim. His sisters are wearing green soft cardboard masks that look like luminous green skulls and his older brother has one the same but in pumpkin orange. His own orange mask lays upside down on that hand-knitted green cushion that covers the metal stacking chair of hand-painted yellow. The thin white elastic is broken. In one of his pockets he can feel the weight of some pennies that he collected for the Hallowe’en beggars and in the other the overflow of nuts so generously dispensed by good and kind neighbours. He finds joy in the warmth and cosiness of that one night which seems to obliterate the memory of all others and which now stands alone as the sole definition and solitary representative of every Hallowe’en in his life. It is a paradigm of what might have been or what could be.

The seal of his own deafness is suddenly ruptured by a screech and he is instantly aware that his granddaughter Sinéad has just been either seriously frightened or more than likely clobbered by her overly boisterous and unruly older brother Shane. Like a forlorn bell it tolls him back to the reality of from whence he came and where he was headed. Boys will be boys he whispered to himself by way of consolation, pride or comfort; he wasn’t sure which.

As he pulled into his drive and surveyed the trappings of all that he had built and accomplished and apparently held dear all of his life another bell tolled. This time it was the peal of a different reality. As he off-loaded the baggage of his fast diminishing present he embraced that reality for a brief moment as he walked from van to door. He glimpsed at a life without walls. He reached into a present where the reality of that wall-lessness awaited him behind that white wooden door with the leaded stained glass arch. He felt the unevenness of the loose pink stones beneath his feet firm up as the certainty of happiness lurked within his reach. As he stretched for it, knowing that it was right, maybe perfect it occurred to him; after all these years it occurred to him-heart is where the home is…

It feels to me like half of the people that I know (not a big number I hear you say!) have had their birthdays in the last few weeks. Is it random that as somebody who sits on the cusp of Cancer and Leo and whose father is in fact also a Libra has befriended and works with such, in astrological terms (not mine), balanced people? I think that if we are more honest than we like to admit we all like to read our stars. We have an inbuilt morbid curiosity which inclines us towards glancing at our next 24 hours, the next week, the next month or even year dependent on whatever tabloid version of Mystic Meg we are confronted with.  Having said that, I do have a personal struggle with a zodiacal system comprised of twelve houses that on the law of averages implies that one twelfth of the population has the same fortune. As an old Christian Brother used to quip to us in class many years ago: “I can tell ye ye’r future lads; ye’ll all pass water before morning!” I hasten to add that with that same teacher a few lads were passing water before the end of the class! Anyway I digress.

So let’s think about this for a moment. I sit on the cusp of Cancer and Leo and move between the two houses, mostly according to whatever fine and intellectual newspaper that I am reading. That’s odd in and of itself; I mean one paper has me nicely boxed off as a Leonine leader, all powerful and strong and the other as a moody Cancerian, all introvert and reflective.  From an empirical investigation of whichever newspaper I buy, or more likely as not happen upon I appear to be mostly a Cancerian, with a handsome dollop of old Leo flung in for occasional good measure. In summary I am a July baby…and if brutally honest…the papers have it right! This in turn begs the question as to what sort of manager I am.

I have been involved in management for more years than I care to remember or count. That management experience covers a spectrum which includes managing hundreds of staff in the retail sector, to leading and managing various university academic departments, to overseeing complex project teams, to leading and managing football teams of various ages, to my current job managing and leading a busy and progressive business school in the heart of Dublin. There is no doubt that experience and age (not the same thing!!) have impacted upon and fashioned me into the manager that I am today. I am under no illusion that the journey is at an end and accept fully that the journey continues and the learning continues so long as I remain open to those possibilities.

When I started out on my career as a trainee retail manager an old seasoned and hardened campaigner in the company I worked for called me aside and suggested that I learn the first lesson of good management and that is that management is not a popularity contest. Experience has taught me that for a large part of the time it is certainly not that. Equally I have also come to realise that it should be more about being fair and consistent and that I need to remind myself of that on a daily basis. Still though, decisions have to be made; tasks need to be set and there needs to be consequences for unreasonable compliance to a reasonable schedule for task completion.

I have also found that the old hackneyed maxim of ‘different strokes for different folks’ has served me well. Some people need cajoling and stroking and others require pushing and firmness of manner. You just need to figure out what makes various individuals tick. Of course we have the immovable stones and one can only hope that the overall momentum of change and good practice will wash them away. You know what I mean-the old stuck-in-the-mud curmudgeon who hides in his or her trumpeting of the way that it was always done since he was a boy or she was a girl or since Methuselah was a baby…

Football management is different of course and experience has taught me that there is no merit in being critical of performance on the field play. Most committed athletes will know when they have underperformed. Most teams will know when they have underperformed or have been outplayed. There is no performance advantage that will accrue in terms of a critical slating in a sporting context. In that context it is all about performance improvement and analysing and understanding what went wrong individually and collectively and advising on strategies for performance improvement. You know, as I write that I wonder why I don’t use that approach in all management contexts. Then I stop and think a little and I quickly realise that industry or education are not sports (apart from the oft discussed and fabled blood sport popularised by incompetent management) and whilst losing a game might mean losing a league or being sent packing from a championship, underperformance in the workplace causes loss of profits, the dampening of motivation, the killing off of stamina and commitment, all of which culminate in diminishing returns for everyone, disillusioned customers and regrettably and increasingly the loss of jobs. That’s where I firmly believe that the similarities in the two management contexts end.

The other challenge of management is what I refer to as the loneliness of the long distance runner. Managing and leading is all too often a lonely old station. Trust me…it is all of that. On the other hand I take great comfort that I personally know a very successful football manager who fosters a culture of managerial loneliness so that he can make tough decisions on matters such as team selection at one step removed from the players. He opines that good management and good leadership require buffer zones in the sporting environment which ironically is a context that all too often epitomises team work and esprit de corp to the unknowing supporter. Now that is something that those of us involved in academic management could actually learn from sport.

In an overall sense what I am trying to say is that maybe we need to be able to adopt different persona and need to constantly reinvent those persona if we are to stay at the vanguard of successful management practice. I would argue that the success of management practice is not so much rooted in an understanding of theory y and theory x or in understanding the functional roles of management for example as in the way we relate to the people that comprise and make up our entire team. Such relations will require balance, some will even require exceptional leadership and courage and conviction in decisions and some will require a manager to be withdrawn and reflective. Maybe just maybe there is a zodiacal school of thought on effective management. Maybe just maybe we should burn the Kotter and Mintzberg collection and get stuck into the new theories of MMM (Mystic Meg Management). Facetiousness aside there is something to be said for proactively cultivating an array of management styles. My stars tell me that I have an entire universe to travel before I even come close. May the journey never end and the learning never cease..

The First shall be last

It was a canopy of darkness

That brightened her day

It was a bright ray of sunshine

That darkened her way

The shadow of evening

Brought joy to her face

The first light of dawn

That joy did erase.

The lark in the morning

Wrought true devastation

The hoot of an owl

An exciting sensation

She was the new day

All trembling, afraid

She was the nightfall

A joyous young maid

The first shall be last

The last shall be first

Famine’s to hunger what

Drought is to thirst.

It was a canopy of darkness

That brightened her day

It was a bright ray of sunshine

That darkened her way.

There used be an old British Telecom Ad and the strapline was: “It’s good to talk!” Now I am aware that British Telecom were about selling the art of talking and in a sense playing to what for most of us is a natural part of life and existance. I suppose in that sense it was an easy sell. Those of you that have been brave enough to read my previous Blogs will realise that I put great value on communication in all of its myriad forms. Communication rather than money makes the world go round. Look no further than the success of texting, blogging, email, mobile technology and you will quickly come to the conclusion that we do like to stay in touch.

I am reading and re-reading a book about the Tyrone Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region). It is really a series of mini-stories about the last native Irish speakers in that region. Many factors contributed to the decline and disappearance of the native tongue-an oppressive National School system, emigration, widespread intolerance plus a range of other influences all of which took their toll until the native speakers  became fewer and fewer in number and disappeared completely in the 1950’s. The thing that struck me more than any other factor though was that the final blow for the language in that region was that the last remaining speakers of Irish were so scattered throughout the Tyrone countryside that in the end they never got a chance to communicate to one another in their mother tongue ever. Without communication the language died. A language is the soul of any nation and without language communities die. Without language we have no collective soul. Without language the fundamental relationships that underpin life and underscore who we really are die.

For life, for survival, for forgiveness, for wealth, for success, for happiness, for love, for well-being there must be communication. Talk to somebody today. It might just be that sliding door moment. You might just change somebody’s life. You might even save a life.

About two years ago I was delayed at an airport in the USA and feeling bored I picked up a best seller; one of those books that was high on the success of a recommendation on the Oprah Winfrey show. It was ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’, by Mitch Albom and I read it faster than I ever read any book before. It’s an easy read but it’s deep. One of the central themes relates to the connection between seemingly random or unnoticed events in our daily lives and how such events or other often seemingly minor deeds can unknowingly seriously impact on the fate and lives of others. Yep…speak to somebody today. As you make your way home or wander through the shops or go to the football or do whatever it is that you do at the weekend, speak to somebody…somebody out there needs you…that’s  for sure…

So my way of communicating today will once again reside in a couple of poems that I wrote over the last few years. There is no doubt that they are personal and in a sense reflect what I want to say this wet Friday evening. Both poems contain some anger and some frustration and both are  laced with a generous dash of desperation but both I believe contain a message of hope… even if that seems a tad elusive on first reading.

One is about my own emotions and is essentially a weave of some personal feelings and my love of nature; the other is an anti-war statement and an expression of the feelings that consume me as I listen each day to the news and learn of the new casualties of conflict on all sides the world over. Once again, I hope that you enjoy!

A Random Day in February

The hard, cold, unyielding landscape

Of a perverse beauty,

That radiates, yet gives begrudgingly,

Beauteous to behold

Cold to warm, cold to colder

She rips the very heart

From within

The giving soul

That gazes in awe of

What she does and doesn’t offer.

Pebbles, occasionally a strange and hastily hewn rock

But mostly random grains of

Glittering sand

She casts upon the nearby forlorn shore;

And yet the incessant longing is for more.

What drives desire?

Remains the searing question

Posed by every single and gentle contour of her form

The rare needle of sunlight

That reluctantly dazzles in parsimonious majesty

Giving way to just occasional hope

Consuming the body of the ever watchful sentinel

Of her soul.


Glorious to die for one’s country

My ass,

Brave, yes

I met death in an Alpine pass

The fighting done

Heart set on home,

An inglorious end in an Alpine pass,

Brave, yes,

Glorious, my ass!

They can wear with pride their flowers red,

A medal, a row of them,

Gold, bronze, silver,

A ribbon,

A heart of purple

What use to me, as I am dead in an

Alpine Pass

Yeah, my ass.

I was talking to a colleague the other day and she intimated that my most recent blogs were perhaps a tad morose…it’s a reasonable point to make but I believe that writing in a sense reflects the mood of the writer. If I am candid, which I usually am, and often to my own detriment and at my own expense, I’d say that sometimes the well of creativity just dries up and it is either mood-writing or nothing. It isn’t always possible to be bright eyed and bushy tailed, no more than it is possible to be a bundle of laughs all day every day. In sum, my writing unashamedly reflects my mood.

I was talking with a different colleague yesterday afternoon and we were kicking back a little and reflecting on the vagaries of life, randomly teetering in and out of being both stoical and philosophical about the hands that life and  Fortuna  occasionally deal us collectively and severally. We segued into a conversation about angels or that ‘someone to watch over you.’ I am not so sure that I subscribe to the notion of a guardian angel but then on the other hand I occasionally feel like I actually do have someone watching over me; I am as contradictory as life itself it would appear.

So all this got me thinking about the subject of this week’s blog and I started to write and suddenly the aforementioned well of creativity dried up. I found the subject, which was the essence of the preceding paragraph just too painful and too emotive to deal with. Undeterred I thought some more and got thinking about a poem that I wrote while living in Liverpool a few years ago. It was in the ‘genre of the morose’ a little dark but the light that shines throughout is the approximation of my own little angel. I hope that you enjoy!


He stood, withdrawn from the

Madding crowd,

Not far, but still he padded

Out the edges of,

A weird existence,

As if to seal his fate,

For way too long he’d


A character yes, but never

Principal to an unfolding mess

His very frame bent and battered

From the plaudits of affection

That he absorbed as stress.

The hinterland in which now

He dwelt

He knew was just a staging post,

And yet he knew not which

Road he would choose to follow,

Just certain that yet again

He’d hit the road

Unsure, a little worried,

Nervous, yes, but

No longer content to wander,

From the sideline,

He knew that if he waited

Maybe, just maybe, one more day

That something would occur.

That maybe would illuminate his way,

Keep the faith, he heard

Her distant voice,

It’s there, it’s there, she called

In a gentle whisper,

Invisible still to him but

Deep within he knew

That it would come,

That it would peep its head

From the emptiness

That had settled on his being,

Seeing, seeing it, if only,

Again he huddled in the shadows.

Sticks and stones will break your bones…

…but names will never harm you…or so goes the old rhyme that has been recited by millions of parents the world over millions of times since time immemorial. You are of course familiar with the scene. You are out playing on the street as a child and a little contretemps ensues between you and your best friend and some minor pleasantries are exchanged in that grandiloquent patois of the under-ten! Usually you are accused of smelling or of your daddy always being drunk or your brother being stupid, or your name is stupid, or your parents are getting divorced, or that you are adopted…you are no doubt au fait with the mantra of insults that in truth are more likely to have originated in the home of the insulter over the Sunday dinner. The main thing is though that your mother or father tells you that it is all ok and that your best friend never meant any of it and that actions are more damaging than words and so on…

If we are honest how many of us have uttered words that we never meant at all. I know that I am guilty. I can stand accused of saying things in anger or in hurt that I never really meant however virulent they were at the precise moment of utterance. They are no sooner spoken or written than they are regretted. The problem is that once these words are out there they are sometimes impossible to retrieve. More precisely I believe that it is well nigh impossible to retrieve angry words by the subsequent essaying of pleasant, remorseful or contrite ones in their stead. There is something comforting in the old adage-action speaks louder than words. Remorse and truth are better demonstrated in doing rather than more saying. The issue is though that the circumstances and context usually need to be right to allow for action. Problems of location and distance present challenges that can really only be overcome by personal interaction or by deeds and doing. Yes, words, meaningful conversations, define-the-relationship chats, cards, flowers etc can all go some way to closing any distance created by anger but that final (if I may paraphrase Kipling) sixty seconds’ worth of distance unrun requires something more, something only surmountable in the face-to-face contact that our innate condition demands…the physical touch, the searching look into the eyes of the hurt by the hurter..the frantic search for sparks of forgiveness in the deepest recesses of the eyes, or the seeking out of the faint smile, or something positive in the tactile brush of skin, affable pinch, kiss, handshake, hug, pat on the back, touch of the shoulder that might somehow be fanned into a fire of real forgiveness and from the ashes of which an even stronger emotional edifice constructed.

The real question I suppose is how do we get to understand the source of the anger, the source of the hurt that fired up the rage and eventuated in a verbal or written attack? What is the energy source of such anger and rage? I am not a psychologist and the only basis on which I can proffer an understanding is the bitter experience of life…yes, I have been there a few times, indeed I could open the proverbial t-shirt shop (note to self-does this mean I have anger issues?).

I am going to suggest that the source of most anger lies in several things. First, I would argue that a fundamental lack of communication between two people on any number of issues leads to a kind of pent up frustration. It might be as simple as two people having developed different ways of communicating and this manifesting itself as one person coming over as more needy than the other for example. Second, if a lack of honesty is manifest in a relationship and one person knows that the other is hiding, or running from an inescapable truth in that relationship, this leads to non-communication or a gradual accumulation of anger and frustration that will occasionally boil over in the absence of an equally weighted and balanced and available forum for its expression hence vitriol. Third, I posit that non-communication or the non-availability of a forum of expression is a powerful, usually negative and often violent type of communication itself. Indeed this type of communication usually more than any other precipitates boil over. Finally there is the alcohol factor. Alcohol is the common thread that all too often links the three aforementioned issues. There is a common Latin phrase-‘In vino veritas.’ This translates as-‘In wine (alcohol) there is truth.’ Whilst I believe that alcohol is all too often associated with all that is bad or painful in society-disease, relationship breakdown, death, debt, violence, melancholy,unplanned pregnancy and the violence of language I am not so sure that I fully subscribe to all of the implications of the Latin phrase. Yes, alcohol may be the agent that effects behavioural change and in some instances the consumption of alcohol is the only reason for a tragic consequence of alcohol-related behaviour. In the case of linguistic violence however I am convinced that the fundamental stresses in the relationship are already there. These may well  be related to life stress, to depression, to mental health issues, to random events but nonetheless they are core to the mean, spiteful, alcohol fuelled ,violent, aggressive and painful outbursts that I refer to above. It is important to really analyse and discuss and process these stresses to avoid the repetitive cycles so often associated with such angry verbal attacks.

Honesty is always best I believe. This applies to personal and professional relationships equally. Whether it is romance, managing a football team, project work, being the boss, or being a parent, directness and honesty conveyed in a format devoid of personal insult and invective is always best. Yes, it is ok to be angry. Yes it is ok and healthy to let people know that you are hurt by their actions, offended by their words and that you are angry. Such emotions and feelings just need to be communicated in an appropriate way and in a way that ameliorates the situation, resolves the issues, relieves the hurt and the tension as opposed to the too often unintended exacerbation of an already messy situation. On a personal note I try to work hard at that. I don’t always succeed but I just keep trying.

I suppose I just cling to an old phrase that my father attributes to his own father-‘A dog’s anger never scattered a house.’ That little saying has served me well in the trials and tribulations of my own life’s journey. Indeed it is I believe the conscious effort to continue to work at removing personal anger and healing the hurt that we receive and dispense that actually builds that house and that repairs it and makes it even stronger and more robust after the ravages of the many storms by which it and indeed its very foundations are occasionally rocked.

Sticks and stones will break your bones and names will never harm you…maybe mammy was partially right after all.