Eric a sight for sore eyes for pub-goers with the munchies
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.
Eric Payne, who goes from pub to pub selling fresh food from a wicker basket.
Eric and his basket.