I tried the acpi variants - off, force etc but each time it failed and I had to make a hard switch off. Now when I try to start the machine I get a console screen. I then log in and enter "startx" but I get the error message "Fatal error, no screens found"
I presume my file system has become corrupt. In the meantime my wife is using Scientific Linux which I installed some time ago. It has the gnome desktop and is easy to use. Her needs are very simple - in one word ... Facebook.
So, as I have reinstalled and updated Pclos twice and got the same problem each time it seems there might be a fault in the hardware/software.
If there are no more suggestions in the next day or so I will mark the thread solved.
Many thanks for your help Just18 and Archie.