Friday, October 22, 2010

Astute and helpful sub

When the HMS Astute, a nuclear submarine touted as Britain's stealthiest, gets stuck in the mud off the Isle of Skye (read it here), a number of questions come to mind: What was the sub scouting for in that particular spot? Wasn't anyone minding the periscope? Can sonar detect mud?

One question no one seems to be asking, though, is this: Where's Winnie-the-Pooh when you need him?

I find it impossible to hear the word "astute" without thinking immediately of the situation described in chapter 8 of The House at Pooh Corner: venturing out on a windy day to wish his friend Owl a Very Happy Thursday, Pooh finds himself, not unlike the HMS Astute, stuck--not not in the mud but beneath an arm-chair after the wind knocks over Owl's house. After Owl and Piglet release Pooh, the intrepid friends consider how to get out of the house when the front door has been inconveniently relocated to the ceiling.

No need to call in the tugboats when Pooh gives his mind to the problem:

Pooh's mind had gone back to the day when he had saved Piglet from the flood, and everybody had admired him so much; and as that didn't often happen, he thought he would like it to happen again. And suddenly, just as it had come before, an idea came to him.

"Owl," said Pooh. "I thought of something."

"Astute and Helpful Bear," said Owl."

Pooh looked proud at being called a stout and helpful bear, and said modestly that he just happened to think of it....

If you don't know what Pooh happened to think of, you'll have to go read the book yourself. When I read this as a very small child I marveled over Owl's impressive vocabulary, but I even then I knew that "Astute" and "stout" were not at all the same thing. The word "astute" arises rarely but when it does, I think of Pooh--and I'm probably not the only one. Has a Winnie-the-Pooh fan insinuated himself into the process of naming British nuclear subs?

I have no doubt Pooh could solve the problem of dislodging the HMS Astute, and afterward he would commemorate the feat by composing a hum. Sing ho for the life of a sub! And then let's all sit down amongst the honey-pots for a little smackerel of something.

No comments: