Ronald Blythe asks this question in his wonderful book "Borderland" . Readers of my blog will know that I am a great fan of all his books, and in particular of the Wormingford Trilogy= a book to pick up and put down when you have just a couple of minutes reading time. Not just one book actually, but as the name suggests a collection of three books, all articles reprinted from the back page of The Church Times to which he has been a contributor for many years.
So when does a virtue become a vice? The instance he gives is when does being sensible and careful with money become being stingy? He speaks of an old lady who still uses a conventional typewriter to write her letters - the tape is so old that the print is barely legible = and all for the price of a new reel. Even when he gives her beautiful notepaper and envelopes as a present she doesn't use them, preferring to keep them for something special and still using scraps of paper to send notes.
I suppose another virtue/vice example is that of cleanliness. Many folk like to keep their homes clean and tidy but there is a limit and going beyond it does tend to dissuade folk from calling. Also where children are concerned it can be particularly damaging. I remember going regularly on business to one house where there were children - three of just about school age - and there was never a toy or a toy box or any evidence of children about anywhere. It never seemed natural to me.
Trying to keep clean and tidy is always a problem on the farm. At any time of the year there will be something set to drive you crazy.
At haymaking it will be hayseeds, which get into the tiniest crevices in clothing, only to pop out as soon as the wearer steps indoors. The same is true of straw and chaff at harvest. And this time of the year it is mud.
The farm is very wet at the moment. The grass has never stopped growing and the farmer moves the sheep around to keep it down. Yesterday the sheep got out (as sheep do) and the neighbouring farmer rang to tell him. That meant moving all the sheep to a new set of fields - give them plenty of grass to go at, says the farmer, and they might not stray for a day or two.
Now, this afternoon, the fog has come down and the farmer is staying in and finishing off one of his Christmas jig saw puzzles. When I expressed surprise that he was in he said that it was so wet underfoot that there was nothing to do that wouldn't make the farm or the fields worse than they already were, so he was best off them and indoors. Can't say I blame him.
So there is no chance of my being too super clean and tidy here at the moment - dogs and farmers both combine to make a muddy floor. As for the virtue/vice of carefulness with money and stinginess - never enters my head I'm afraid. What is money for if not to spend - save a bit for a rainy day by all means but don't go without one or two of life's little luxuries.
My first step in my campaign to update my image and make myself feel less of an old fogey began today with a new hairstyle - watch this space.
Incidentally, on the subject of farming, if you want to read an enthralling account of lambing go to Homestead Hill Farm on my side bar - they are in the throes of lambing and each post is absolutely fascinating. How poor Barbara finds time to blog beats me.