An update on my previous post.
I have now updated my laptop and - like I did with my desktop - I changed my partitions and created a small boot partition on disk 1 (HD0). I set up Grub and amended the menu.lst file. That all went fine.
However, I noticed the same strange boot behaviour whereby the system during boot (verbose was on) switched the screen resolution, presented me with a lot of lines on the nouveau driver, delayed for a whole minute before starting init5 and failed to start x.
The 'solution' I found for the desktop did not work. The normal 3.2.18-pclos1 kernel this time gave me the same type of trouble.
The solution was actually to be found in the stanza of the old kernel. I had to add the NOKMSBOOT option.
I have see some recent posts about strange graphical issues. Perhaps it may be worth while checking the boot options.
Strangely enough on my desktop the NOKMSBOOT option is not required. But I have (re-)added it, just to be sure.
The laptop has a GeForce 9200 M GS (driver 302.17); the desktop a GeForce GT 520 (driver 302.17).