If matters are within your control, you should avoid comparisons which reflect unfavourably on yourself. If matters are outside your control, it’s a really tough hand.

About a hundred years ago, I applied to join Oxford University. Back then you had to take a few special exams and then name the three colleges within the University that you wanted to attend, in descending order.

As I waited in the ante room of a Pembroke College Don’s rooms, I could vaguely hear a posh chap giving what his audience deemed a very well thought out answer to some no doubt bottomless conundrum.

After he came out – and he was particularly handsome – and before I went in, I got a chance to drill him on his background, to see who I would be compared against. What school are you at? Finished at Eton in the summer. Yikes. How did your Advanced levels go? I got 4 grade A’s. Double yikes. Looks, breeding and intellect to spare, not good for me. I went in.

My only recollection of my interview is being asked to solve this: “Can you explain this conversation? One chap says that 10% of the working class are criminals. The other says that’s because 10% of criminals are working class.”

When you’re in an under pressure situation, and 17 years old – I hadn’t yet taken my ‘A’ Levels yet and was not especially mature for my age – the last thing you need is to have to talk through this little beauty. I rambled moronically for five minutes before we moved on.

Unsurprisingly, I was not offered a place. Yes, my friends, avoid the unfavourable comparison if you can manage it.

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