well i tried to follow the suggestions in that link, but couldn't format the USB stick. it would umount OK but wouldn't format:
[root@www bob]# umount /mnt/removable/
[root@www bob]# mkfs.vfat /mnt/removable/
mkfs.vfat 2.10 (22 Sep 2003)
mkfs.vfat: unable to open /mnt/removable/
due to my limited understanding, i'm most likely committing some basic error here, so i just stuck the thing into a WinXP box and deleted the offending item there (no probs at all). then i formatted the stick FAT32 just for good measure and it is working fine in linux again.
i wonder if these problems are due to me pulling the USB stick without umounting it first
i hadn't realised it was a no-no...