The Scottish singer, who is most famous for her 2006 hit debut single I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in My Hair), lives in a villa in the small Gulf island of Bahrain, where she moved to just over three years ago, and the kingdom, just as with most other countries, has been hit by the coronavirus outbreak.
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“Everyone here is being really sensible,” she tells The National over the phone. “We’re also home-schooling Logan [her son], which takes up all the day,” she adds with a laugh.
“I had always worked and volunteered for Tony, fundraising and helping out, tending to the animals,” Thom explains.
“When his life ended and this chapter began, there was no plan of action or contingency in place. His kids are all living abroad and no one wanted to leave their families behind and relocate back here, so I just kind of picked up the gauntlet and rallied everyone together.”
For the past year, Thom and the four-member team have been busy implementing a framework for BARC to run as a community organisation and building a new shelter facility, which is 70 per cent complete.
“I am the kind of person who hates to see injustice towards animals and abuse of power,” Thom adds. “After living here for three years I see various problems that exist and I can’t turn away from that. I can’t not do it.”
It’s not that people don’t care, but there are so many hoops to get through before they can finally pass a law
The animal welfare problems she sees in Bahrain include salukis getting dumped after races and pitbulls being bred for fighting, for example.
The stray dog problem has also boomed, she says, after they were all put in one area together, allowing the population to grow and disease to spread. It’s for reasons such as these that Thom has turned her attentions to trying to impact legislature, such as the GCC 2014 Animal Welfare Law, which includes punishments for people who abuse or neglect animals.
“The law wasn’t implemented in Bahrain, and only has been in the last few weeks,” she explains.
“There are a lot of things here that need to come up to global standards,” she says. “It’s not that people don’t care, but there are so many hoops to get through before they can finally pass a law. There is a lot of red tape and bureaucracy, and it takes a lot of time.”
That’s why she’s planning to stay on the island for at least another year or two, although she admits this is just a temporary home for her family.
“I have an awful lot to accomplish before I move on, including finishing the shelter and finding someone to permanently run it, and generally see the changes I really want to see.” She’s happy to stick around, however, as she enjoys living there.
Thom originally moved to Bahrain after her husband was offered a job in finance. “I had been living in Los Angeles, where I met him, and then I had to move back to the UK and live in Essex. No offence to Essex, it’s a lovely place, but I didn’t want to move back to the UK.” So her partner started applying for positions around the world. When he was offered a job in the Gulf, Thom didn’t flinch. “By nature I’m an adventurer. I like to move and see the world, so I said: ‘Great, why not, let’s go’.”
Parts of the country are stunning, there’s the history, the community, it’s very safe
The past three years have gone quickly and it wasn’t hard for her to integrate into the community. Plus, she says, there’s much to love about Bahrain. “Parts of the country are stunning, there’s the history, the community, it’s very safe … You can’t complain, you know. I live in a lovely house and there’s a pool and gym and it’s in the sunshine. The only thing I would complain about is summer, which is brutal.”
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