I don't know when my mum first uttered those words in a slightly hushed tone but it was many years ago. I've looked out for the Mouseman's work ever since, partly because it's often hidden and I'm overly curious (ok, 'nosey' is the more Yorkshire way of putting it) and partly to admire his craftsmanship.
So who was the 'Mouseman'?
Robert Thompson was born in 1876, lived in Kilburn near Thirsk and made oak furniture. A small carved mouse made him famous.
He was carving an altar rail one day, bemoaning his poverty with a colleague, saying they were 'as poor as a church mouse'. According to his great grandson, "He had this idea of a church mouse gnawing away and no one knew it was there, so thought it was a good idea to use it as a trademark". From that moment on, he carved a small mouse on every piece he made, and became known to future generations as 'the Mouseman'.
Perhaps part of the charm is that his mice are rarely in the same position so you have to hunt for them a little. They could be on a table leg or the underside of a chair so there's a burst of pleasure when you spot one, knowing not everyone will.
Look carefully and you'll be able to find them all over the Yorkshire Dales, often in churches. Take a look at the pews, choir stalls and chairs in Hubberholme church or at the rood loft and oak pews, or in the church at Bolton Abbey where you'll find the distinctive mouse carving on the Bishop's Chair and board listing previous Priors. I was delighted to recently spot the little mouse on the lychgate by the cemetery at Greenhow.
Not all the mice are in churches. Look carefully anywhere you find heavier oak furniture and you may discover a hidden mouse carvings such as on the bar stools and bar at the Punch Bowl Inn in Low Row.
Estate sales at Tennants often feature Robert Thompson's furniture, which can be seen on display during their viewing days, and which usually commands high prices.
Next time you spot me craning my neck to examine the underside of an oak chair, you'll know why.