A CPL production for ITV.Pictured: This image is the copyright of ITV and must only be used in relation to Brief Encounters.

“IT was extraordinary.

“All the men in the crew went very quiet.”

Penelope Wilton talking to me about glorious new ITV drama Brief Encounters.

Starting in 1982, the six-part series begins at 9pm next Monday (July 4) and is just the tonic we need after the turmoil of recent times.

Sophie Rundle (Steph), Angela Griffin (Nita), Sharon Rooney (Dawn) and Penelope (Pauline) give compelling performances in this Sheffield filmed and set production.

Four women linked by the emergence of Ann Summers’ party planning, providing hope, confidence, ambition and a chance of independence.

As well as its fair share of laughter and tears along the way at a time when attitudes to women and sex were very different to today.

downtonxmas12a

“LIFE is strange, isn’t it?”

Downton Abbey series three, episode nine.

Otherwise known as the 2012 Christmas Special, just broadcast by ITV1 tonight – December 25 – in the UK.

If you have yet to watch it, do NOT read any further.

Come back later once you have viewed.

That obviously also goes for our American cousins waiting for series three to begin on PBS on Jan 6.

As well as other Downton fans across the globe who are not yet up to the UK series pace.

There are major spoilers below.

So unless you want to read them, stop now.

IT begins with Anna Maxwell Martin on a steam train and David Morrissey riding a horse.

Both heading for the same destination.

If you’re in the UK and able to watch, do yourself a favour tomorrow (Sunday).

Record anything else you might want to catch and settle down to watch BBC1 at 9pm.