Ask Fiona: Should I accept a free holiday?

Fiona Caine, PA


My husband died four years ago, and I have been lucky to have a really good friend to help me through it. We go way back and she’s as close to a soul mate as you can be.

We spend a lot of time together, including taking holidays, as her husband never wants to go. These breaks have become very important to me, and although she is considerably better off than me, we have always shared the cost equally.

Unexpectedly, she got divorced last year – it was messy and not very amicable. She did get a very generous settlement, though. The whole process upset her a lot, so I have done what I can to support her.

Throughout this time, she has wanted to do a lot more travelling with me, I suppose to cheer herself up. I have gone along with the first couple of trips, but they have been hugely expensive. My friend now wants to spend a month on an all-inclusive, guided tour of India, but I simply can’t afford it.

I dodged the issue for a few weeks until my friend cornered me and asked if something was wrong. I confessed that although I’d love the trip, I just haven’t got the money for it. At which point she offered to pay! I said right away that that would not be right and I would feel awkward about it, but she said that’s silly as she can easily afford it. She also said that, if I don’t go, we’ll miss out on a great trip because she won’t go without me.

Part of me now feels guilty that I am preventing her from going but, at the same time, I know that I will hate feeling like I owe something if I let her pay. I am really confused about this, and don’t know what to do for the best. I am worrying so much about it that it’s keeping me awake at night. Why is she doing this, and should I just accept her generosity? The last thing I want to do is upset her further or risk our friendship.

H. R.


I can understand why this might be making you anxious and confused. Differing income levels can put a strain on some friendships, sometimes even cause them to drift apart. However, please try not to worry about this too much. Your friendship has lasted for many years with this inequality in place, so the odds are good that it can survive this.

It’s understandable your friend should want to pamper herself following her unexpected and messy divorce. It’s also possible that once she has got this out of her system, things will return to normal. In this context, one option is to tell her that you will accept her generous offer, but only if she agrees that this is a one-off and that you can repay her kindness in other ways. This could take many forms, from treating her to a spa day or perhaps a trip to the theatre. It also need not involve spending money; you could cook some favourite meals for her, or offer to do a chore or task that she has been putting off.

If you really can’t accept her offer though, you’ll need to explain this to her carefully. There is a possibility that she may react badly to the news, especially if she still feeling hurt following the divorce, so be gentle. Make it clear that this is all about your need to pay your own way and not about your friendship, which is important to you.

You’ve helped each other through some significant trauma over the past few years and the last thing you want to do is upset her. Stress that she’ll still be your best friend should she go on her own or with others, and that you look forward to hearing about it all when she returns.


I have been going out with my boyfriend for just over two years. In that time I have gained about a stone and a half in weight and it’s making me miserable. The more miserable I get, the more I eat.

My boyfriend says he still loves me, and we are talking about getting married, however, I am still worried that he has gone off me and that he will soon leave me. I feel fat and so ugly and I don’t understand what he still sees in me. I love him very much and want to be with him, but something tells me he is just being kind because he feels sorry for me.

I think he knows something is wrong, because he’s asked if something is bothering me. The problem is, I can’t tell him how I feel in case he then decides that I am not right for him and leaves me. I can’t feel positive about anything now and spend a lot of time crying in bed. In fact, I nearly lost my job last month because of the amount of time I have taken off. What’s going on? My older sister used to get depressed regularly, is that what’s wrong?

W. F.


I am so sorry you feel this way. There is some evidence that depression can be driven by genetics, and some of what you describe could be symptoms of depression. So, perhaps the best thing for you to do initially is have a conversation with your GP. If it is depression, the good news is it can be treated, either with medication or counselling or both. You should also mention your weight gain, to rule out any medical reason why this might be happening.

Whatever the outcome of this conversation, I think you should consider counselling help anyway. You’ve convinced yourself that you are fat and ugly, even when your boyfriend is telling you he loves you and wants to marry you. This poor self-image then drives you to eat more food, which suggests a nasty cycle of negative thinking that needs to be broken, and you’ll probably need help to do this.

Please contact Beat Eating Disorders ( for support and information. The charity has a free helpline as well as group and one-to-one online chat services.

Finally, you really do need to talk about this with your boyfriend. He must have noticed that something is wrong and it’s unfair on him to keep him in the dark. If you continue to hide how you feel, he might take this to mean you are going off him – and that’s the last thing you want to happen. Tell him and stress that you love him. Explain that you’re feeling down and are unhappy about the weight you have put on. Then together, you can start to turn this around. You can do this!


Twenty years ago, when I had my first child, I was tested for rubella. I’ve remarried recently and, to my surprise and no little shock, I am pregnant again. I am happy, but also concerned that no-one has asked me about rubella this time around. Is that right or should I ask the doctor?

K. R.


My understanding is that the rates of rubella are so low in the UK that the NHS no longer routinely tests for it in those who want to have babies. The MMR vaccine plus the catch-up schools programme some years ago means the disease has been virtually eliminated.

If you were so minded, you could have a private test done but, as you are already pregnant, it may not be appropriate to have the vaccine anyway. However, if you are still concerned, please speak to your doctor.


My daughter is 13 and has no friends at school. She has learning difficulties (dyslexia) and I am sure this is one of the reasons she is seen as different. She might be a little immature, but everyone grows up at a different pace and, in so many ways, she’s just a normal 13-year-old who finds it hard to talk to other young people. I know she tries, but it seems they just don’t want to know her.

It seems the staff are the same. For example, my daughter enjoys sport, but the coach is dismissive of her. This upsets my daughter because she feels so left out in everything. I spoke to the coach and it’s clear he’s only interested in the good players. At home, my daughter is a very good and loving child. However, she really doesn’t want to go to school anymore. What can I do to help her? I don’t think changing schools will help, as this will probably only create the same isolation.



If your daughter is feeling isolated and not supported, it’s no wonder she doesn’t want to go. Other than the sports coach, have you spoken to other members of staff at the school? If not, please arrange to see her form tutor or her head of house and explain your concerns. Alternatively, many schools also have a specialist counsellor for dealing with pupil issues like this. It’s possible that the school is unaware of your daughter’s problems, especially if it is a particularly big one. In which case, once they are informed, I would expect them to work with you to create a plan that will enable your daughter to better integrate into school life.

If you have already had this type of conversation with the school (and nothing has changed) then it’s hard to escape the conclusion that it has collectively failed your daughter. In which case, a change of school may be your best option – perhaps to one with a specialist learning difficulties unit.

If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.