This king came after that king, this battle was fought after that battle – everything exists on an x-axis. Then, when I came to live in Edinburgh, I realised that, outside the classroom, history is actually vertical. John Knox preached on this very spot, where the Enlightenment philosophers also debated and the Scottish Parliament opening procession passed by in 1999 – everything exists on a y-axis too.
These thoughts popped into my head while watching Britain's Lost Routes With Griff Rhys Jones (BBC One, Thursday, 8pm) as the Welshman mashed up both history and geography on the first of four journeys that held some sort of significance in ye olden days. Here, however, the x-axis applied to both time and place.
Jones was setting out in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth I as she made her 1574 summer trip from Windsor to Bristol. In future episodes, he'll sail a barge up the Thames, follow drovers through Falkirk and undertake a medieval pilgrimage to St David's Cathedral in Wales.
The purpose, apart from a few nice days out for the presenter, is to reveal how the difficulties thrown up by the routes affected the people who had to traverse them and, in turn, made the country what it is today.
With his grizzled grey beard and raspingly posh voice, Jones is not necessarily the most charismatic and engaging of hosts. Presumably he got this gig because he has already confirmed his seasoned traveller credentials with the Three Men In A Boat series.
But shorn of the banter between Jones, Dara O Briain and Rory McGrath, Britain's Lost Routes came over as particularly self-indulgent. There were horses in the Queen's procession? Then kit Griff out for a quick riding lesson. Falconry in Elizabethan times, you say? Give that man a glove and a bird of prey and listen to him go "wow".
Blink and you'd miss any of these little episodes, however. The journey moved at such a pace that nothing was given room to develop beyond mildly interesting trivia.
Past the camera flowed a conveyor belt of "experts" in such diverse fields as historic ale, interiors, etiquette, maps, dancing and archery. But they were rendered as tiny figures within tourist-friendly images of a green and pleasant land filled with castles and black and white-fronted Tudor architecture. Simon Schama this was not.
My main problem with the programme lies not so much in its intellectual shallowness, but with the authenticity of its presentation of the central premise.
Is Windsor to Bristol really a lost route? Apart from one wee side trip up an overgrown path, Jones seemed pretty secure on the A369 and A40. Not only that, he was swanning around in a 1964 Rolls-Royce Phantom 5 – a royal carriage for Liz II, admittedly, but hardly the vehicle to properly convey the adversities faced by her namesake.
As the footnote details piled up, however, Britain's Lost Routes did achieve some cumulative sense of the times the self-styled Virgin Queen lived in, particularly when stopping over in Berkeley Castle to examine the political and religious subtleties of her visit there. The original royal walkabout had a propagandist core? Blinded by the Jubilee bunting that's currently hanging all over the TV schedules, that's not really so hard to believe.