2/ Getting the rod out
Manually turn the white gear (using yet again a tiny screwdriver) until it's inside the box again (halve a centimeter). Or, as I did: put the black box on the ground, with the rod pointing up. hit the rod with a hammer. 4 plastic bits ('thingies') will break off but apart from a little bit of play in the rod position, this has no adverse effect because the white gearing is kept in place by the printplate.
Instead of hitting it with a hammer, I took a less aggressive path and broke the four black "wings" off manually from the front, screwed the inside white shaft out and then took the black plastic ring off it. I found it best to screw the inner shaft from the front when assembling.
Still, great post everybody. I wouldn't have had a clue without reading this. Thanks.