Crash. Bump. Plink. Thud. Thunk. Tinkle. A curiously musical cacophony floated through the tranquil air of Cheung Chau one warm day a week ago. 'I thought someone was murdering his grandmother,' one 14-year-old resident said. He went to the window to have a look. A piano had magically appeared outside the front door. It was a rather sad-looking upright 'Joanna', apparently abandoned. A sign in Chinese had been placed on the front: 'Free to Music Lover'. The piano had participated in the time-honoured, two-stage Hong Kong method of property disposal. First, place object outside personal space when no one is looking. Second, run. The householders of Tai Sun Street thought nothing more about this until the evening came. It was mildly amusing, the first time a drunken passer-by started to thump on the keys. 'O Danny boy . . .' The second to 15th times were less amusing. Sometimes the 'music' was experimental. Sometimes it was Chopsticks , played with various degrees of virtuosity. Every so often, a passer-by who could play the thing would send melodies trilling through the night air. After two nights of impromptu concerts, the piano vanished, and has not been seen since. This whole business of furniture disposal is a tricky one. A financial analyst of my acquaintance moved into a new flat on Hong Kong Island. Like most flats, it was tiny and he could not move any item without moving everything else in tandem. He placed his favourite bookcase outside the front door, to give a bit of space in which to manoeuvre. 'I'll bring the thing back in a minute,' he told his wife. BIG mistake. He spent some time shifting all the other furniture to where he - okay, his wife - wanted it. Mopping his brow, he opened the front door to find - nothing. His bookcase had quickly and silently been adopted by new parents. What to do? He composed a sign asking for his bookcase back, and placed it in view of his neighbours in the block. That night, there came a knock on his door. It was a security guard, telling him that he must remove his sign, because other residents said it implied they were thieves. What a pleasant start to life in a new community. I once lived in a flat where you could see the neighbour's front room (if you stood on a chair and looked out of the air-conditioner outlet in the spare room). We saw her hitting her child with a hammer, and phoned the police. 'Please be discreet about your source,' we told the officer. She sounded miffed that anyone could doubt the ability of officers to respect informants' confidentiality. Twenty minutes later, another officer rang our doorbell and that of our neighbours. 'Now let's see,' he said, 'you are the people accusing your neighbours of abusing children, and you are the alleged abusers.' He had a chat with Monster Mom, and then popped around to our flat. 'What you saw happening didn't happen,' was his memorable conclusion. But vertical communities do not have the same 'television sitcom' character as old-fashioned horizontal ones. Let us return to Cheung Chau for a case in point. What seemed to be a rare medical emergency broke out on the island last week. A young Western woman noted that her flatmate had fallen ill and summoned help. The ambulance on the island is not like ambulances elsewhere. It is a tiny little one-man motorised truckette. Two men and a stretcher squeeze on to it. The ambulance whizzed out of the fire station and shot along the narrow paths. After a few minutes, it became apparent that the vehicle itself had been stricken with some dire illness. The engine received its last rites outside the Hongkong Bank. The fearless servicemen were not to be swayed from their mission. They assembled a stretcher-on-a-trolley device and rescued the young woman, wheeling her towards the clinic. It soon became apparent that the stretcher itself was ailing. One wheel was rolling at a funny angle, and eventually flew off. The patient made a full recovery. Doctors are not so confident about the fate of the ambulance and the stretcher. One worries about what will be used the next time an accident victim needs to be transported to safety. 'You climb on to this piano, please, missee.'