Well I think I have.
reinstalled the debian image, and instead of plugging it into the telly (because strangely enough my wife has different views on what the tv should be used for!) thought I would try running it from my laptop.
so, I put the image on the sd card using my laptop and diskimager. Popped this into the RPi and used putty to ssh into the RPi (using the IP address I gathered from the router (and whilst I was there I made the IP address for the RPI static).
I was a bit concerned that the the config menu may stop me, but this runs when you access the RPi for the first time through ssh as well. I expanded the partition, and changed the password. Then went to install remote desktop.
Again, when reading there seems to be umpteen ways to do this, but I went for this method, using:
apt-get install xrdp
this installed a xrdp server and to log into the desktop, you only have to use Remote Desktop Connection from a windows machine and use the IP address of the PI, which I had now fixed from the router.
Works an absolute dream (although some of the keys seem to be mixed up?)