Giving up is not an option. I finally found a console armfh image, installed it and got wifi to work with a WPA password protected network. Then I set about getting to a graphical login. Guess what? Installing the XFCE desktop does not cause X to be installed, oh no, that would be way too easy. After a lot of trial and error (xorg-x11-drv-modesetting is not a good idea on the chromebook, by the way) I got xfce working. Now trying to get some Gnome variant (mate or cinnamon) working. This has taken way too long and has meant no development work, only stress and bother.