After some toil and turmoil, I managed to migrate the content of my original DB (Mysql 4.0 on 1&1) and the update ran fine.
There are still two hurdles
1. Accented characters are all wrong. The DB tables show latin1_german2_gi. I probably need UTF8_general_ci.
The cache-update table is : UTF8_general_ci.
2. I uploaded all the translation dirs but I get more English than French (Read more, etc.) and it's mostly English on the admi interface. I ran the update script too. No difference.