In a Major Victory for Cats, George Harrison's Widow Changes Her Mind and Decides Not to Install More Razor-Wire Fencing at Friar Park
"I am very pleased. The fence is up, without the razor wire, and it looks rather lovely. I am very grateful to Mrs. Harrison for her decision."
-- Rodney Bewes
In a gigantic victory for cats and their owners living on West Street and Hope Gardens in Henley-on-Thames, George Harrison's widow, Olivia Trinidad Arias, decided late last month against installing more razor-wire fencing around her $32 million, one-hundred-twenty-room Victorian and neo-Gothic mansion known as Friar Park. (See photo above.)
The long-running controversy arose after Arias installed nine-hundred-eighty-five meters of razor-wire fencing on top of a six-foot-high wooden fence back in 1999. That decision came shortly after her late husband was stabbed multiple times by an intruder. Already suffering from incurable throat cancer, the attack hastened the former Beatle's demise two years later in 2001. (See photo below of the razor wire.)
Whereas Arias and her family may have felt more secure living behind the razor wire, it did not take long for the fence to begin to take its toll on cats from the neighborhood. In particular, a six-year-old moggy named Maurice belonging to actor Rodney Bewes became impaled on the wire several times. (See photo below of Maurice and Bewes.)
"Is the razor wire really necessary?" Bewes asked last year. "Our cat has been caught three times, once severing an artery (and nearly losing his tail on another occasion), and we know of three other cats who have been injured." (See Cat Defender post of January 11, 2010 entitled "Razor-Wire Fencing Surrounding George Harrison's Mansion, Friar Park, Is Taking a Heavy Toll on Cats from the Neighborhood.")
With the wire aging and the wood rotting, Arias sought permission from the Henley Town Council to replace it with new razor wire but was turned down thanks to a spirited campaign mounted by Bewes and other cat-lovers from the neighborhood. She then appealed the ruling to the South Oxfordshire District Council where she prevailed.
It thus appeared that more razor-wire fencing around Friar Park was a fait accompli. (See diagram below.)
Then, like a coup de foudre, Arias announced in late June that although she was going ahead with installing new fencing it would not be topped off with razor wire. Although she has not publicly stated the reason behind this about-face, it seems obvious that the negative publicity that she received played a major role in her change of heart.
Bewes, for his part, gives considerable credit to the press. "I think the way we went about matters last year had a lot to do with Mrs. Harrison's decision not to put the razor wire back," he told the Henley Standard on June 21st. (See "Beatles' Widow Backs Down over Fence.") "The Standard was first with the story and soon afterwards I had the national press on my doorstep and Maurice was all over the papers."
Not one to gloat, the former star of the BBC sitcom, The Likely Lads, does not really care what convinced Arias to change her mind; he is simply glad that Maurice is now safe. "I am very pleased. The fence is up, without the razor wire, and it looks rather lovely," he added in the interview with the Henley Standard. "I am very grateful to Mrs. Harrison for her decision."
Although Harrison is believed to have penned "It's All Too Much" for his first wife, Pattie Boyd, in this instance parts of it seem to be perhaps more a propos to Arias. Take, for example, the following verse which is included in the longer version of the song:
"It's all too much for me to take
There's plenty for everybody
The more you give, the more you get
The more it is and it's too much."
For those who doubt what razor wire can do to a cat, seeing is believing. For example, on June 21st a twelve-week-old kitten named Bridget in Cypress, California, tumbled into a strand of it irresponsibly strung between two buildings.
When rescued Bridget was bleeding from head to tail as the result of several deep wounds to her paws, abdomen, and back. She eventually will recover but the road ahead is going to be long, painful, and expensive. (See Cat Defender post of July 12, 2010 entitled "Bridget Sustains Horrific Injuries after She Slips and Tumbles into a Strand of Razor-Wire Fencing Inhumanely Strung Between Two Buildings.")
Cat-lovers from around the world are indebted to Bewes and his fellow supporters for having the moxie to take on Arias and the local political establishment. In doing so they have set a standard of dedication and achievement that is going to be difficult to equal.
Nevertheless, an attempt should be made to do so because razor-wire fencing is not only deadly to cats but a superfluous security precaution as well. The life-threatening and horrific injuries suffered by Bridget and Maurice should be sufficient motivation for friends of the species to dedicate themselves to work for its eradication from all neighborhoods.
Photos: Henley Standard (Friar Park) and the Daily Mail (razor wire, Maurice and Bewes, and diagram).