Pandora Melly cooks up a wild newt at Scrabble
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, 32, Cook on the Wild Side

I've just been to the Seychelles with some friends. Holidays are the only chance I get to play games. Before we flew, I made two important shopping trips to buy a pocket backgammon set, travel Scrabble and 30 dice, with which you play Perudo. All the games got used a lot, but definitely the favourite was Scrabble. During the day it was far too hot to play, but as the sun went down, the Campari and soda came out, and we unfolded the Scrabble for some long and leisurely games.

One couple in particular are great fans. A few months ago I gave them a copy of the definitive Scrabble dictionary, but they forgot to pack it so we had the most enjoyable kind of game where you can argue because you can't check anything. If there's no dictionary to be had, you just have to thrash it out, which adds a whole new dimension to Scrabble: not just how many words you can make, but how well you can fight your corner.

Some people have a knack for slipping in dodgy words without a fuss, and as the game progresses, somebody else is bound to say: "Oy, what does 'eft' mean?" by which time it's too late. The really infuriating situation is when you know that your word exists, but you've got no way of proving it.

My father is a very keen player. On family holidays to Cornwall, I knew when it was my bedtime because he'd get out the Scrabble board and play several games with his mate. I'd come down in the morning and there'd be a completed game, a load of empty bottles, and an ashtray heaving with fag-butts. I remember looking at this maze of extraordinary words and wondering if I'd ever know what they meant.

'Eft', from the Old English 'efeta', is an old name for a newt. 'Official Scrabble Words' is published by Chambers (pounds 11.99 hardback, pounds 5.99 paperback).

Comments