Have spent most of tonight and previous nights struggling with the Blender Video Sequence Editor under the impression that it was unwieldy, bug ridden and useless - and worse, it seemed to be actively, intelligently sabotaging my imported footage, jumbling up the video and audio and deleting any scenes it didn't like. I have now seen the light: Blender VSE is easy, well designed and functional - the culprit all along was Quicktime, the devil's own audio-video format. One conversion job later and everything suddenly works fine! and my edit is back on track.
The VSE is part of the Blender freeware animation package. It's basic but functional, and while it doesn't have the features of, say, Final Cut, it does feature a decent multi-track editing system which is lacking in Windows Movie Maker or most freeware editors. As I get used to the interface I'll share any tips: today's tip is - avoid Quicktime.