This post is in collaboration with Virgin Trains.


Sometimes I think back to the simplicity of being a child – waiting for your best friends to knock on your door and ask you to come out and play after school. How those hours seemed to merge in to days, and the summer holidays would be one hazy blur of grazed knees, penny sweets and giggles.


I wish I’d had the mental capacity to truly appreciate every second of that, then. At 28 I’m the busiest I’ve ever been – and coming out to play, well it doesn’t happen all that often.

Did you know the average Brit has 17 days of free time each year? That’s not much, is it? 

It’s never been so important to me to make the most of those moments I do have. Treasure those snippets of time where, should I really think about it, I could do whatever I wanted.

And then Virgin Trains got in touch. They asked me what I’d most love to do with my free time and with their help we picked a destination. We’d travel there by train and spend a weekend celebrating our free time.

We chose Manchester. I’d never travelled with Virgin, I’d never travelled first class and I’d never explored Manchester – it was a weekend of firsts and I was excited. I used the Virgin Trains Free Me Calculator and it estimated I only have between 11-15 days free per year!

We thought about how actually having dedicated free time meant we could look at this trip a little differently. To be honest, without this challenge I don’t think Jamie and I would’ve thought to visit Manchester for a weekend on a whim – but it forced our hand, to think outside of the box and really make the most of the opportunity.


We travelled from Milton Keynes to Manchester in two hours – it was an absolute dream. I’d never considered booking a first class ticket before, but if you book far enough in advance my god is it worth it. Oodles of space, complimentary drinks and all the food you could need – you really do get your money’s worth. No traffic jams and certainly no sitting on the carriage floor; I read my book for two hours straight and Jamie caught up on some design work.

Before shooting any blog post Jamie and I will put together a Pinterest board – and it was prevalent from the word go that any image we found, sang its praises to the music scene of Manchester, how it’s back streets had shaped the future of Britpop and that because of that almost every corner felt nostalgic.

It was Jamie’s excitement that had me hooked – and in his own words you can see why.. 






I wanted to take you to some of the musical haunts of Manchester’s past. It’s been pretty iconic for British subculture for the last 40 years, and taking in the sights, and the streets that inspired some of the best alternative rock and indie bands was always going to help with inspiration. Mainly, I just wanted to stand on steps of Salford lads club and pretend I was Morrissey, but also there’s some real beauty in the everyday, true British culture that you just don’t get anywhere but Northern England.




It seemed to slip hand in hand with those feelings of being a child again and exploring the unknown. We spent hours each day just walking, and it felt so good to be free to do that. 

We lived consciously, and I couldn’t have loved it more. We travelled home with ease and I know it’ll be a weekend that will be one of my favourites forever.

What’s your dream way to spend your free time?

You could make it a reality with a prize that includes Virgin Trains West Coast train tickets, and Virgin Escapes experience up to the value of £500. Simply share how you’d like to spend your free time one of their three Facebook posts. The posts will go live on the following dates and will run for 48 hours:

Weds 16th, Saturday 19th and Tuesday 22nd August. (Link to Virgin Trains Facebook page: 

Find out how much free time you have this year too:

Photography by Jamie – All photos taken on OLYMPUS.