This involved taking thirty-one people curious about what makes Manchester’s Chinatown click on a two hour tour around the streets and in and out of the businesses.
The tour had been organised with Bonnie Yeung of the Yang Sing Restaurant, the indefatigable daughter of Harry Yeung, the United fanatic who arrived here in the 1970s. It was also part of a deal with Manchester Confidential.
Harry Yeung is one of the city's great characters.
He told me a great story about his United obsession a couple of months ago. He was looking for a new house recently and stumbled across a very Modernist one in South Manchester. His wife wasn’t keen, but Harry was intrigued. So they went back for a second look. At which point the estate agent revealed that the house had been purpose built by George Best. The house was promptly bought, Harry couldn't help himself. Out came a big briefcase of cash from Harry's car boot.
I asked Harry to repeat this story when he joined us on the roof of the Yang Sing during one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever done on a tour. Part of the deal for guests was that we would conclude proceedings with wonderful views of the city. The roof of the Yang Sing is the perfect height for this. The taller city buildings form a manmade terrain with the hills peeping through in the distance. On the Saturday we ascended we got crystal clear atmospherics too, you could see the field walls on the Pennine hills fifteen miles away.
The problem was the access.
This is via stairs and then up a twelve foot ladder in the attic. The ladder shakes and it’s a bit of a stretch to get over the trapdoor rim. Many of the guests didn’t like heights and some weren’t in condition, to put it diplomatically, for such acrobatics. Still most of them managed the climb and they were rewarded with those tremendous views, and then afterwards with tea and dim sum in the form of a Manchester bee made from cuttlefish, almonds and seaweed.
What I didn't understand were people coming up the ladder with faces a picture of terror saying, "I really don't like this, I don't like heights." I kept saying, "Well don't do it then." But still they came. I admired that.
"Sorry I didn't pre-warn you about the ladder," I said to the crowd when they assembled on the roof. "I confess I just forgot about it. Mind you, you have had loads of free food and as a bonus conquered a huge psychological challenge. Talk about value for money."
I think that's called putting a brave face on it.
On the way down one of the guests said, “Did you do a risk assessment for that?”
“What do you think?” I said.
“Oh no, you’re not a health and safety officer are you?” I asked.
“No, I’m a sexually transmitted disease data researcher,” he stated.
“I wish you wouldn’t tell people that,” said his girlfriend.
We met some very gracious people on our tour.
Kichi at D&K Fresh Seafood was entertaining telling us about her alive and kicking eels, carp, crabs and lobsters. Vanessa at Ho’s Bakery looked like she’d taken a professional speaking course the way she handled the crowd packing out her family’s cake and pastry business. Finally Boss at ICFT was enthusiastic and informative as he described his bubble teas, “They’re like a drink and a meal together. They have an extra wide straw so you can suck up the tapioca in the bottom.”
ICFT by the way means, I Come From Taiwan.
Maybe we should all open businesses like that, with autobiographical names. Mine would be ICFR, I Come From Rochdale, or ILIM, I Live In Manchester or ITPULWTTF, I Take People Up Ladders Without Telling Them First.