Alas I couldn't get the virtual to boot, and anyway the Vista load is starting to show signs of instability (hardly surprising in a Windows installation that's been poked and prodded as heavily as mine has), so I have bitten the bullet and am reinstalling Vista from scratch with a virtual filesystem. The partition that was going to host Vista is now an ext4 filsystem which can host whatever I want or need to put on it. I have installed VirtualBox, and Vista loaded up like a champ.
The only (current) fly in the ointment is that for the life of me I can't get wireless networking to work. Unfortunately Command Line Idiot appears to be right when he or she writes:
There are roughly 19 billion tutorials for how to do anything you would ever want to do with Ubuntu. Unfortunately, they are all written by a 12 year old who knows even less than you.Some of the advice I have seen is so cryptic as to be incomprehensible, some refer to drivers I don't have and don't seem to be able to download, the majority of it its either apparently irrelevant or clearly wrong.
So, crazy fundamentalist or not, I'll be happy to hear from you if you can tell me how to get the wireless networking going.