NINE years ago I wrote an article about a new period drama which, with a starry cast, looked a bit glossier than the average ITV six-parter.

The Telegraph & Argus had been contacted by the producers for permission to use a 1913 copy of the Yorkshire Observer, the stable of newspapers the T&A came from. The new series was, they said, set in a fictional Edwardian Yorkshire country house, written by Julian Fellowes no less.

So far, so Upstairs Downstairs, I remember thinking as I typed the article, and didn’t give it a second thought. Six months later, Downton Abbey was so embedded in the nation’s psyche we could barely remember life before it. For the next six years, autumn Sunday evenings were devoted to Downton, a huge international hit which became the most watched television series on ITV and PBS, and the biggest British costume drama since Brideshead. Americans were even more obsessed than us; on a trip to California I was approached by complete strangers eager to know the latest on Downton and Dame Maggie.

Now Downton Abbey has reached the big screen (some of it filmed right here in Bradford) and I can barely breathe when the trailers come on. Will it be any good? Frankly, I don’t care. As soon as that lovely, sweeping score starts, with the Labrador by his master’s side, the tinkle of servants’ bells, the feather duster on the chandelier...I’ll be lost in a world I fell in love with on a late September evening in 2010.

There was no greedy binge-watching back then - Downton was something to look forward to on Sunday nights. I used to watch it with my dad, over coffee and biscuits. We’d gently take the Mick out of it, especially the good egg Earl of Grantham and his saintly American wife, but I loved it, and was bereft when the first series ended. Like the 11 million or so other viewers hooked on life with the Crawleys, above and below stairs, I couldn’t wait for its return.

Yes, the second series got a bit daft, with dashing Downton heir Matthew home from the Front, paralysed and mildly depressed, miraculously casting aside his wheelchair to rescue a falling teapot or something. The war years whizzed by, with a passing nod to the Somme, the Easter Rising, Russian Revolution and flu epidemic, and before we could say “That will be all, Carson” the Crawleys and their faithful staff were shimmying into the Jazz Age.

By now the ancient Dowager Countess was surely about 100, Lady Mary was an eligible society darling, despite being practically middle-aged by early 20th century standards, and Daisy was still the lowly kitchen maid, getting a clip round the ear from Mrs Patmore. It all moved on too quickly and required a generous suspension of disbelief, but that didn’t matter.

Downton was syrupy, soapy, occasionally silly and probably nothing like the reality of a servant’s life in a vast country house. But it was warm, moving, witty, beautiful to look at, with characters we took to our hearts...kindly but troubled valet Mr Bates, with his limp and stoic devotion to duty; firm but fair Carson; no-nonsense housekeeper Mrs Hughes with her jangling keys; the formidable Dowager with her one-liners.

Downton Abbey captured the long Edwardian summer lost to the Great War and a changing world. As Julian Fellowes said, in my article back in 2010, the fascination of that time is “the extraordinary variety of people occupying great country and women living together but separated in dreams and aspirations by a distance that makes the moon seem close”.

* COULD this be the year Anton Du Beke finally gets his hands on the glitterball trophy?

Strictly Come Dancing's new series launch show, broadcast on Saturday, saw Anton partnered with EastEnders actress Emma Barton (pictured). At last, a partner who shows promise! Clearly delighted, some might say he's been less than gallant about his previous partners, but give the guy a break. Anton has had a succession of hopeless Strictly celebs over the years and, though fun to watch, the joke has worn thin. I hope this is the series where Mr Ballroom gets to shine.

* FORMER James Bond star Pierce Brosnan says it's time for a woman to take on the film role.

The actor, speaking ahead of Daniel Craig's fifth and expected final outing as the British spy, told the Hollywood Reporter: "I think we've watched the guys do it for the last 40 years, get out of the way, guys, and put a woman up there!"

He did, however, suggest that franchise producer Barbara Broccoli would not be up for it.

I'm with Barbara. Why on earth should James Bond - written as a very specific man - become a woman? By all means create a female spy - but that should be an entirely new character. Bond fans, male and female, enjoy the films for the action, the cars, the tongue-in-cheek humour and suave hero. It's a franchise that still works. Mix it up a little, but leave it shaken, not stirred.