Doug and Anita

Through the 80s I was the leading dealer in French tin optical toys and persistence of vision between London and Paris. I was a member of the Magic Lantern Society in London, and even the Music Box and Barrel Organ Society. I also dealt in Ephemera, plates, magic lantern slides and prints connected to the subject.

I had very enthusiastic clients both in London and Paris. Amongst my clients was an interesting couple, Doug and Anita Lear. They lived in Maida Vale, London on narrow boats with their 2 children on one boat while the other housed a theatre to perform unique magic lantern shows. They gave amazing educational performances with Doug doing all the buying over a period of 20 years of rare equipment.  His knowledge was second to none. He had studied the history of pre-cinema, its origins linked to persistence of vision, photography and stereoscopes.

I was invited to see the show with my husband Martin Breese who was a magician. Doug had an interest in conjuring too so the men got on famously. I didn't have much contact with Anita over the years except that she knitted chunky wool sweaters which Doug always wore and eventually I commissioned her to make one with 'Magical Martin' emblazoned on it for my dear husband.  In fact the only thing I knew about her was that her father was called Sancha, was a known society portrait artist and had a big house in posh Kensington. She had gone to a good boarding school but had married Welsh Doug and thus led a bohemian life going off from time to time to spend a while away at her wealthy parents' house. A double life for tough multi tasking tomboy Anita.

Then suddenly they moved to a conventional house in Milton Keynes and sold the narrow boats. I think Anita had had enough of their vagabond life or perhaps it was for schooling. Next they moved to Wales and opened a tearoom-cum-pre cinema museum with a triple magic lantern in Llandrindod Wells, famous for its Victorian Festival. Doug would come to visit us when in London but not as a client because he was no longer giving the show the love and passion of his life. He would moan how it was compulsory to learn Welsh at the children's school and how unfriendly the northerners were to the Anglicised southerners. The tearoom failed because the council would not giving them parking facilities for their clients.

My mother was Welsh originally from Swansea but never had a Welsh accent. As we lived close to Northern Wales, living in Liverpool, I felt an immediate connection with Doug being half Welsh and loving the beautiful Welsh countryside.

Time passed and the Lears split. She aggressively filed for divorce forcing him sell his precious valuable museum quality collection. Suddenly Doug had no trade and while his wife got involved with wood and marquetry. He was a depressed ruined man while she came out on top. I googled him and discovered, apart from his book, that BBC Wales had made a short film with Doug about the art of the lanternist entitled 'The lanternist and the lodger.'

For some mysterious reason Anita invited Martin and I to stay the weekend in her new farmhouse abode somewhere near Hay on Wye, the famous town of books. We accepted unsuspecting that she had become a Welsh dragon!

We drove from London and my back ached so I was almost limping on arrival hours later. Amazingly, Anita had not prepared our room and we were given a mattress on the floor. I had stomach cramps and I recall we were ignored by her rebellious young son Merlin. She bored us by bragged about her success in marquetry and took us to her adjoining workshop proudly showing us her excellent intricate work. She bad mouthed poor Doug and over dinner turned on me aggressively asking, of all subjects, about my sex life and did I have an orgasm and if so, were they multiple? I just coldly informed her that it was non of her business. She must have been watching the famous scene in the cafeteria in 'When Harry met Sally.'

Anita Lear Sancha (adding her maiden name) had become 'Woman of the year' through her successful marquetry projects closely working with architects and receiving commissions. This was not the Anita we had known and liked. Anita had always been talented, inventive and creative, that we knew and respected but I was not prepared for her offensive verbal attack. We retreated, after an organic not orgasmic vegetarian meal, to our makeshift bed and decided to escape at dawn and head for Hay for the rest of the weekend. Martin was after all a Modern First Editions book dealer and I had been a Juvenilia dealer.   We felt no guilt because she had not gone out of her way to host us. But why invite us at all? It made no sense but we decided not to confront her because we never wanted to see her again. 

We lost touch with Doug and of course Anita. Years later at dinner time, the phone rang. It was Anita in London wanting to speak to me. I refused to take her call. She apologised to Martin for her outburst and insisted on speaking to me as she was obviously riddled with guilt.

I instinctively knew she was doing a Landmark course in London and had to do the exercise of ringing up someone with whom you had unfinished business. Another woman, Pandora Morcas who I had known in Paris, had also rung to apologise for her bad behaviour when I had invited her for lunch, so I knew. Martin at my instigation, asked her if she was in London to do the Landmark weekend and 'yes' was the answer.

I googled Anita today and saw a good photo of her with a marquetry table top. She has achieved success and recognition but at what price?  Today 30 years later, had she asked me that same sexual question, I would have asked her about her sex life and orgasms!

Written in the Battle of Trafalgar pub in Brighton 8/8/17.


Google - Anita Lear Sancha image

Amazon - Victorian Britain through the magic lantern
You Tube - The lanternist and the lodger
Landmark Forum -
Google - Pandora Morcas

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