I returned to Pelican for another shot, and it turns out I got it wrong.
I thought that the described file structure was the minimum, but you can get Pelican up and running with way less.
So far I've only got the base.html, the index.html and the article.html templates set up. There's also the single style sheet. All in all a very minimal set up.
This was one of my goals. I really dislike web cruft, and while most may find the layout of this site very boring, for me - as a copywriter -, it's perfect.
Keeping it simple also lets me maintain it. I'm not a designer, and not a developer. This theme fits me in all sorts of ways.