Eric a sight for sore eyes for pub-go­ers with the munchies

Llanelli Star - - Letters - Robert Dalling @Robert­Dalling [email protected]­di­ 01554 700811

IF you are a reg­u­lar at your lo­cal pub in Swansea then the chances are you might have seen this Llanelli man.

Strolling in at the usual times wear­ing a long white jacket and clutch­ing a wicker bas­ket filled with fresh food and crisps, Eric Payne is an un­usual yet fa­mil­iar sight to most.

In fact, most pun­ters in the know don’t bat an eye­lid at be­ing of­fered the chance of buy­ing some fresh cock­les or a Pep­perami at 9pm or 10pm at night.

But for some­one who may not have seen Eric be­fore it may come across as quite un­usual, to say the least.

That’s be­cause some­thing that may have been seen as quite a tra­di­tional job 30 years ago when he started is not some­thing you see much of any­more.

In fact, he’s one of only a few left.

By day Eric lives an or­di­nary life work­ing as an elec­tri­cian liv­ing at his home in Five Roads.

But at night he will travel all the way to Swansea and visit pub af­ter pub of­fer­ing pun­ters their choice of cock­les, mus­sels, prawn cock­tail, crab sticks, onion bha­jis, chicken bites, Pep­peramis, crisps and choco­late.

But why does he do it? And what got him into it in the first place?

It be­gan when Eric an­swered a job ad­ver­tise­ment in the South Wales Even­ing Post which only de­scribed the role as ‘part­time work’ that re­quired a car and a tele­phone.

Once he an­swered the call, he learnt that the role would be go­ing round sell­ing seafood.

He started off more than three decades ago and would work in the Port Ten­nant and St Thomas ar­eas, call­ing at the Mer­maid, the Vale of Neath, the Naval and Mil­i­tary Club, the Cape Horner, the Ship, along with pubs like the Brunswick, Robin Hood, West­bourne and more.

He then moved onto the Gow­er­ton and Gor­seinon ar­eas, then Lan­dore, Plas­marl, Birch­grove and Llansam­let, also spend­ing time vis­it­ing the pubs in Neath.

The com­pany he worked for de­cided to stop do­ing the de­liv­er­ies, so Eric de­cided to keep it go­ing by him­self.

Nowa­days you will find him at the likes of the Three Sis­ters, Malt­sters, Mansel­ton Ho­tel, Plough and Har­row, the Com­mer­cial, the Globe, the Sta­tion, the Alma, the Rail­way, Coop­ers and the Smiths.

“A lot of pun­ters are quite happy to see me,” he says. “I try to get to the same pubs at the same times on Fri­days, Satur­days and Sun­days. You see the same faces a lot and it’s a pretty so­cia­ble job.

“If there’s ever a time I’m away for any rea­son peo­ple will say to me the next time ‘Where were you last week­end?’

“It’s a so­cia­ble job, it gets me out of the house.”

Eric, who de­scribes his age as be­ing the “other side of 60”, has a reg­u­lar game of heads or tails with cus­tomers.

He of­fers pun­ters the chance to have the item of their choice for free if they cor­rectly guess the side of the coin or pay dou­ble if they get it wrong.

“In the long run it evens it­self out,” he said. “Some nights I can be around £15 up or other nights it can go quite badly.”

De­scrib­ing what he likes about his job, he said: “It gets me out of the house and it runs the car.”

It’s a tes­ta­ment to his pop­u­lar­ity that some peo­ple have even paid a spe­cial trib­ute to him on nights out.

“There have been a few fancy dress evenings for wed­ding par­ties or stag and hens and a few times I’ve been told peo­ple have been dress­ing up as me in white coats,” he said.

“Peo­ple know I don’t mind a laugh and a joke, there’s rarely any trou­ble.”

He added that times have changed through the years he has done the job, but he hopes to keep the tra­di­tion alive for some time yet.

Pic­tures: Robert Me­len

Eric Payne, who goes from pub to pub sell­ing fresh food from a wicker bas­ket.

Eric and his bas­ket.

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