As a little teaser of what Bernie has installed for you, here is an extract from the book with a short chapter entitled "PARTY TRICKS" from his Egypt experiences.......

   On the rare occasion that I got out of the Cessna Husky on the airstrip, the crew would gather around jabbering away in Arabic trying to teach me a few words. (I was learning to count, tell the time and a few basic words like please, thank you, gidday etc.) They would also try out a few English words on me and offer me cigarettes. All of them smoked except Edward, and I tried to tell them how unhealthy the habit was, to no avail. It was considered very macho and strong to smoke.

To demonstrate just how strong they were, one of them showed me a little game they thought was quite special. Placing two river stones a bit bigger than golf balls on a fuel drum about three inches apart, they placed another long thin river stone spanning and on top of the first two.

With a blood-curdling shout the demonstrator would karate chop the centre of the long thin stone and it would break in half. Everyone laughed and clapped and congratulated the karate man who broke stones with his bare hands.

Of course I joined in the fun, as you do. Pulling Edward aside with a smile, I asked him to tell the crew, that Kiwi pilots that don’t smoke were exceptionally tough and brave. I would like to demonstrate this fact if they promised not to try it themselves.

Sensing the start of an international competition, the boys all nodded enthusiastically, with absolutely no intention of not trying whatever this crazy Kiwi was about to demonstrate, and they crowded around to witness the event.

The trick I was about to demonstrate was essentially sleight of hand, as most ‘magic’ is, and would be very impressive on any hard surface like a table or concrete wall. I planned to use a steel 200 litre fuel drum that was standing close to the Cessna Husky.

Above - "Testing the Local Transport"

Left - "Knuckle Crunching Party Tricks" 

The top of these steel drums has a rim or up-stand (where the flat top joins the barrel part), which sticks up about a centimetre from the top of the drum and is about four millimetres thick. A simple and harmless section of the drum one would assume, but for my ‘demonstration’ a lethal, knuckle smashing, steel, skin remover. Hand position is important. I close my hand into a fist and tap the first finger joints on the hard surface, not the actual knuckles. The secret is to open your fist during the downward swipe so your fingertips strike the hard edge with the appropriate THUNK, and then quickly make a fist after striking the edge.

Two points need to be emphasised here: 1) do not repeat the trick more than once as finger tips can get bruised and smarter observers may catch on; and 2) a psychological build up gets the audience nicely primed.

Followed closely by the crew I slowly walk over to the fuel drum and stare at the top for about ten seconds, flexing my shoulders a few times and stretching my arms out over the drum. Deep breathing is the next part of the build up. A soft, slow hissing of breath accompanied by the occasional deep grunt got the lads nicely in the zone.

A deathly silence falls over the group and 18 eyes closely follow my every move.

Perfect! I have them totally spellbound!

Still moving slowly and deliberately so as to not break the spell, I start a noisy series of deep breaths and blowing through pursed lips, more shoulder flexing and gently tapping my knuckles on the rim of the drum, meanwhile staring ferociously at the rim. Moving even more slowly I take a step back from the drum, slowly shaking my head and blowing on my knuckles.

Nine pairs of eyes are now like saucers and the moment is right to strike as I am obviously in a trance and psyched up to go. The audience is totally mesmerised.

Stepping decisively up to the drum I tap my knuckles three times on the lip, then theatrically raise my arm in the air and with a mighty blood curdling HYYEEEYAA! Strike cruelly down on the rim of the drum.

With a sickening, bone crunching thud my ‘knuckles’ strike the rim and spontaneously a collective horrified gasp comes from the audience. They could almost feel the pain.

Stepping back from the drum with the appropriate grimace – actually I had got a bit carried away with my own act and my finger tips were bloody sore – I wound down by blowing on my knuckles with a series of shoulder and finger flexing exercises thrown in for good measure.

The lads were hugely impressed, crowding and jostling around wanting to examine my knuckles, which of course were undamaged. Not so my fingertips, which were sore and bruised for days after. This of course was my closely guarded secret.

I performed this trick again one more time before the end of the season as they were constantly at me to show them again. My standard reply was that it took 12 years of daily training and non smoking to perfect the technique and it was too mentally draining to do it too often. They were a little suspicious and I noticed a couple of bandages on one of their hands the day after the first demonstration. I did have the thought that if I were asked to walk across the canal on top of the water, as that would be a natural progression; I may lose some of the kudos gained from the drum exercise. However I am not one to jump at shadows and decided to address that situation if it arose.

"Tanta Airfield, Cessna Husky Fleet" - North of Cairo, Egypt