War And Chocolate.

I was up early, too early for the haus breakfast. As I walked into the dining area, past the sign on the brass stand that said things weren’t open yet, I looked at the rows of empty tables and chairs, shrouded in the dim light of the dawn. I nestled myself on the couch in the corner.

I’d wait for things to open.

That’s when I saw him walk in through the swinging service door on the other side. He didn’t notice me. He carried with him a white cloth and a translucent plastic spray bottle. Dressed in black, mid-forties, thin, dark hair and olive skinned. He could have been Spanish, or Middle Eastern or Indian, I couldn’t tell in the darkness.

Then I saw him work. Table by table by table. Chair by chair by chair. He worked with method, never straying or losing focus. Every inch of every surface was touched by that cloth and his hand - which swept in smooth straight lines, repeating like the certainty of a ticking clock.

All he touched gleamed and glistened. 

I sat in the corner in admiration, enchanted by what seemed like a dance as the light began to break through the windows. I didn’t think I could do what he did, with such care, with such grace, with such dogged determination. To be so painstaking with just tables, especially if I thought I was alone, putting my heart into something so mundane and receive no recognition at all. 

Nobody would notice him work, they would only notice if he didn’t. 

This man took pride, for himself, perhaps his family, or his God if he believed in one. 
I walked up to him and said: “Guten Morgen”. Placing the fifty euros I had in my pocket into his palm gently.

He looked up at me surprised. 

“Guten Morgen. Wofür ist das?”

“You work with so much care”, I smiled.

My brain was working too slow to figure out how to respond in German.

“Dankeschön”, he said, with his whole being, bowing his head a little. 


I could see that his eyes looked wet. It was clear that hotel guests didn’t speak to him, he was one usually relegated to the shadows. 

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Afghanistan. But I lived in Ukraine for years. I just came here from Kharkiv.”

That single sentence told me the grief this man must have experienced in his life. He had run from the atrocity of war not once, but twice - his past homes scarred by missiles and bombs.

“I have to go now as they’re serving breakfast,” he whispered.

“Wie heist du?” What’s your name?


I put my hand on his shoulder and wished Jerry the best.

Later, at the bar, the beautiful German bartender with the short hair and big blue eyes told me that the man had once been the best electrical engineers in Kharkiv before he was forced to run with his family. He could only be a housekeeper as his command of English or German didn’t allow him to work as one in Munich.

That gnawed at me. 

Electrical engineering. I had studied electrical engineering, and I was certainly never the best at it anywhere, and here I was gallivanting through the cities of Europe writing poetry, and here was this man wiping tables for me, with precision, without complaint, so I could eat breakfast.

In my room, when I returned from breakfast there was a box of chocolates he had left for me. 

To still hold gratitude in his heart, after life had dealt the cards of war, of destruction, of houses reduced to rubble, twice in a lifetime. His was a human spirit to admire, his was a human spirit that could not be crushed. They may have taken his home, but they could not take his heart. 

I placed a chocolate on my tongue, and felt its sweetness dissolve against the heat of my mouth. Tom Hanks’s voice rang in my head as I held my box of chocolates, I had never been so grateful for a piece.

On Writing With Stephen Fry.

'A true thing, poorly expressed, is a lie.' Stephen FRY
I first met Stephen in 2015. We were introduced by the LA based screenwriter, Alexander Chow-Stuart, who in a Skype call exclaimed: "Do you know who'd love your glasses [my start up at the time], Stephen would."

Turns out, he meant the inimitable global treaure Stephen Fry. I thought he was joking, but two weeks later, an email from Stephen arrived - inviting me to attend his show playing in Sydney: Telling Tales'. Post show, I met him in his green room with my then partner, for a glass of wine. From that point on, probably out of pity, he became somewhat of a supporter of my little project. Although we've met less than ten times, he has always been tremendously kind and remained a diligent pen pal. One of his many acts of kindness was this written interview he gave when I was struggling with writer's block in 2016.

It helped me punch through, and I hope it will do so for you too.

You can give play by play accounts of conversations you had at eight years old — a remarkable memory feat. You’ve interrogated your own past a few times now, have any techniques emerged on how you recall and extract such a high degree of detail from your own experiences?

No techniques, I’m afraid. I do have a good memory. Memory, according the Greeks, is the mother of the Muses. Sometimes the writing out of a scene from your past will provoke further and deeper memories. If it’s important to you, you will remember… unless it’s so important and traumatic that your mind has blanked it out to save you pain. That’s a different thing and only a psychiatrist, hypnosis or similar can help there, I suspect….

In writing, when you’re feeling uninspired, do you have any favourite resources or rituals you turn to in order clear your thinking and guide you along the writing process?

The best way to clear a writer’s block, I’ve found, is to write. I don’t mean to continue banging your head against the brick wall of whatever it is that is obstructing you in your project, but to write something else. I got horribly stuck on the narrative strands of my second novel and couldn’t solve it. So I started writing a diary in which I berated myself for not being able to write. Words poured out. “I just can’t solve this problem of Character A. He doesn’t know what Character B knows and I can’t find a way for him to find out. I suppose he could do this, or that, or … wait a minute!! … I could do that …” This sort of thing, a conversation with oneself, but in writing. Solving the problems by writing about the problems themselves and letting that strange part of oneself that finds solutions do its work.Graham Greene always wrote something like 400 words every day. Doesn’t seem like much, but actually that amounts to nearly 150,000 words in a year. A very very fat novel, indeed probably two Graham Greene sized novels. His method was always to leave his last sentence of the day unfinished. That meant that the following morning he already had something to do — finish that sentence. This “primed the pump”, as engineers used to say.

As someone in high demand, you’re faced with many competing project deadlines. Once you’ve decided to write a book, what stakes do you put in place to hold yourself accountable to achieving it within a certain timeframe?

The tyranny of the deadline works well for me. For some it doesn’t and they fall behind, I just have always been terrified of not completing on time, so I work and work and work — up to ten or twelve hours a day sometimes. But always from very early in the morning (I was up at 5:15 today) — writers have to decide if they are larks or owls. I’m very much a lark. Most writers, I’ve found, are owls … perhaps because they have families and children and so can’t start still the late hours. There are those who can write anywhere at any time, lucky sods. John Hughes the screenwriter and director told me he wrote on trains, planes and in waiting rooms.
How do you test whether the elements of your writing — tone, voice, readability, pace, clarity of message — are working together to achieve your intention for a first time reader?

I have to reply on my instincts there. I write for myself when about 15 or 16 — the time when I most voraciously devoured everything I could lay my eyes on. I read back, sometimes aloud if I think it needs it, but otherwise have to believe in my own judgement. Which is harsh!

Although writing is a solo task, I imagine many hands touch and influence your work before reaching print. What are the most important relationships around you that enable great writing? What do these creative partnerships look like and how did you foster them in the beginning?

I write alone and never let anyone see a word until I present it to my publishers. They have some influence on design, typescript, format, cover etc. and occasionally will suggest that something is too hot to print or find an inconsistency. That’s the editor. Then comes the copy editor, they change single to double inverted commas, or the other way round according to the house style, and apply the conventions particular to that imprint. Every publisher has a different style manual. But otherwise that’s it. I have some friends I’ll send the uncorrected proof copies to, or if it’s an autobiographical memoir I’ll send copies to those mentioned for their permission. Because I work often in the highly collaborative fields of TV, stage and film, I especially value the fact that writing books is non collaborative. Intellectually, or at least cognitively, it’s the equivalent of having a house in the country. The old rus v urbs that the Romans thought about. We are partly city creatures who love socialising and interacting with others, but we have times when we crave the solitary Walden-esque country life. Similarly it’s fun to work in teams, but joyous to work absolutely alone.

Where do the boundaries fall on the creative license artists are allowed to take when writing narrative non-fiction? Do any aspects have a moral imperative for accuracy and what elements are you allowed to play with for crafting a more compelling story?

The answer is always to aim for the truth of a situation, a character or an atmosphere. It doesn’t matter whether the setting, words or narrative movements are true, it matters whether they are truthful. There are (mutatis mutandis) two aesthetics in writing, as in painting. If you take the two great Dutch Vs, Vermeer and Van Gogh you might get what I mean. One painted with absolute photo realism, the other with wild, layered thick brushstrokes of crazy colours that even left in the hairs and on one famous occasion trapped an insect in the oil. They are wildly different, one ‘realistic’ the other ‘mannerist’ but they both achieved a truth. So long as the result is truthful it doesn’t matter that it’s accurate. It’s why people write fiction — it’s a better way of telling the truth than non-fiction which is always distracted and obscured by dreary facts.

You’re known for your radical transparency. How do you choose what parts of your story to share and how do you tread the line of maintaining a private and public life, or do you consider them one and the same?

I consider only the feelings of others in that regard. I don’t mind how much of a dick I come across as, but I don’t want to land others in the soup. Put it this way: it’s perfectly fine to take one’s clothes off, but it is beyond wrong to strip other people naked! If stories of other people are needed (such as the older boy who seduced me at school, but is now a prominent and respectable citizen) I change the names so much that only they will recognise themselves…

Work Me.

It's a Friday, or Saturday,
I can't quite recall,
I've hardly got half of my heel out the door,
When ringing and dinging,
A clamouring call?
Bouncing like a ball,
Hounding down the hall,
And right on up into my cochlear wall!?
It's 6:53! Can't this idiot see!?
Work Me should be gone like an hour ago!

And why even ring?
How important a thing can it be at this time that it can't wait at all? 
And that typical, topical type of recall,
All the numbers and names and the rules for it all,
Is stored in my mind in a room down a hall,
In a whole other block, on a whole 'nother floor,
And the keys are unsorted, and the sorting's a bore,
And it's probably best if we don't try at all.

I'm sorry it seems we can't help you today, 
You're better off calling when Work Me's not away,
But your calls will be counted! With I'm sure many more. 
For if anyone took but a look down that hall,
If they sneak a wee peek through the broken-locked door,
They'd see that thick layer of dust on the floor,
Trappings of a tomb,
It's victim, exhumed,
Work Me
Missing, presumed dead since June.

Dimensions of wellness diagram

The Dimensions of Wellness.

To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.
So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor
Because it blooms up above.

Fernando PESSOA
To be well, I believe, is the greatest success one can have in life - far beyond any material measure. The origin of the term "well" is from the Old English wiellan: "to spring, rise, gush," in reference to a river.

I think that metaphor truly captures the state of being we should all aspire to. That is, to have the necessary nourishment in all aspects of our lives, that we may give to others endlessly without tiring, as natural springs seemed to forever quench the thirst of our ancestors. To be that cup that runneth over so that you may share your fortune with others.

Wellness is something that's evaded me for most of my early twenties, in large part due to my misguided choice to sacrifice all aspects of my life in service of my work at the time - my start up. This neglect of myself lead to broken relationships, bouts of severe depression where I could barely get out of bed, mood swings, a hospitalisation for a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt in 2018.

That self-inflicted darkness is a place I promised myself never to return to and since then, I've made an effort to understand the foundational parts of my life that I must maintain to sustain my health.

Like the eight-spoke wheel of Buddhist Dharma, wellness seems to consist of eight highly interdependent parts that feed and flow into each other; not one can be neglected to be truly well and each part is always a work in progress. This model is based on my readings and personal experimentation, and I invite anyone to add to it if they feel there are parts missing.

As an act of maintenance, I try and ask myself the following questions every so often to understand where I'm at in my journey towards being whole. I hope that sharing this with you will help you on your journey towards health and wellbeing.
Do you allow yourself to experience the full breadth of human emotion, can you accurately label your feelings, and can you act with integrity despite your emotions?

Does your environment bring you joy, a sense of safety, encourage good behaviour and support your wellbeing?

Do you have enough to live well, engage in opportunities and experiences that enrich you and are you free from financial stress?

Stop seeking more when you've reached this level to focus on other areas.

Are you learning daily, mentally stimulated and are you continuously expanding your knowledge and skillsets through practice?

Does your work bring you a sense of fulfilment and allow you to contribute to society and the world?

Do you feel healthy, strong, energetic and are you proud of what you see when you stand naked in front of a mirror?

Do you have meaningful relationships, a sense of love and belonging and do you know who in your support network to call when something goes seriously wrong?

Do you know and feel connected to your core values, purpose and how close are you to living by them every day?

On The Origin of Naming.

'I am not apt to follow blindly the lead of other men.' Charles DARWIN
Tzukuri is the name of my first company, and also my second. It is a project that has consumed the entirety of my adult life, starting from the age of nineteen. It is a journey that has taken me to meteoric highs and lows in the blackest of abysses. It is something akin to having a child, I've never been able to let it go. I have a belief that names shape and influence our destinies in ways that we cannot comprehend. This is the story behind the name.

I am often asked where the name Tzukuri comes from. One of our Japanese suppliers from Fukui Prefecture once commented in accented English: “It looks Japanese, but I have no clue what it is. What does it mean?”

Although I’ve fed a few to confess my sins, the name is a work of pure fiction, a make-believe word — a combination of English letters never before found in that specific order. Although conjured from the aether, it wasn’t done without some careful consideration, a hint of inspiration and a disguised dose of vanity. Here is the origin story for the name Tzukuri, not necessarily in chronological order.

The story begins with the quest to create Unlosable Glasses, and as many entrepreneurial quests do, it began as a naive conversation of ‘What if?’ This inquisitive conversation lead to many more, in which my friend Michael and I tried to uncover whether our imaginings were in the realms of possibility. On the advice of almost every optometrist we had spoken with in Australia, we travelled 5,000 miles to Fukui, Japan.

It was a city bounded by forested mountains and the Sea of Japan on the other. It was here that we were told we would discover the finest eyewear on earth. If anyone in the world could help us, it would be the craftspeople with decades’ diligence in the art, science and magic of eyewear leadership.

Although they weren’t able to help us as we had hoped, and the foretold unsurpassable quality they possessed was only a half-truth — the Japanese language, design sensibility and obsession with detail ignited energy within me.

I made many trips over the course of six months, but I can still recall my first arrival. It was a week or two before Christmas, when the early winter snow had just started to fall. A gentle swirl of ice-white dust blowing around the narrow streets. The fragrance of coldness lingered in the air, a ghost of winter chill. The land was dim and flat, blanketed white, tinged with a sense of loss.

Although more than two thousand years old, sadly most of Fukui is bland, blockish and modern due to its history of destruction. The city was an important military target during WWII and has been rebuilt twice; once after the Allied bombing of 1945 and again after a severe earthquake in 1948. Given its resurrection and repeated reincarnation, the city’s official symbol is fittingly, a flaming orange phoenix.

The factory owner, Toshikazu Sagami, was already waiting for me as I stepped out of the airport shuttle. Japanese punctuality is very real. He greeted me with an umbrella to shield me from the snow. He was a thin man of medium height, bald, perhaps late forties, wore a thick black coat and some interestingly shaped dark grey anodized titanium glasses. He was a warm, smiling man speaking nearly perfect English.

He walked me into the lobby of the company’s newly renovated facility, a non-descript grey building with dark painted corrugated iron outer walls. The company name in English was in black, in a bold sans serif font on the outside. The entrance opened to some stairs to the right which had a sign with Chinese originated characters or Kanji 会議室 (meeting rooms), and painted double doors with frosted glass ahead which had 工場 (factory) in decal lettering to their left.

Sagami-san beckoned me to follow him into the factory area and recounted the history of eyewear manufacturing in Fukui. It was pioneered by a local man, Masunaga Goemon, in 1905. In an effort to diversify the economy and reduce reliance from agriculture, which was hampered by severe snows, Goemon risked his own capital to bring craftspeople from all over the country to establish the eyewear manufacturing industry in this barren place.
He continued to explain that there were 100 separate processes in the creation of a pair of high quality handmade glasses. I later discovered that how they count these steps is questionable but technically correct. Over the past century, each major process was separated and perfected by small, usually family owned factories, rather than any one factory or family controlling the entire process. Ultimately, the whole city became a decentralised eyewear making ecosystem. It was a well burnished story from repeated use, made evident by the fervour in which he told it.

We now found ourselves in a bright room, large tables were covered with an ordered sea of small white boxes whilst an array of machinery sat on the back wall. I could hear the gentle whine of machines in the background, a steady high pitched hum of metal drills whirring about. Middle aged women were carefully inspecting frames before placing them into resealable plastic bags, in preparation for going inside these white boxes. Sagami-san explained that his company was in charge of final assembly and quality control. He also noted that they specialised in dealing with international orders, due to their multilingual team.

He walked over to a neat pile of glasses and picked up a pair — it was a German brand and he pointed to the ‘DESIGNED IN GERMANY’ painted on the inside of one of the temples. ‘Temple’ is an industry term for the arms of glasses, given they sit next to your temples.

“Notice how the ‘E’ in Denmark is blemished and has failed quality control, this temple will be disassembled from the frame so it can be repainted and re-polished before being reconstructed again,” he remarked. The accidental metaphor of rebuilding temples and occurence of life imitating art made me chuckle in my mind.

Using both hands, he passed the glasses over to me. The ‘E’ looked fine until you placed your eye a few centimetres away from markings on the temple. In the bottom right corner of the third stroke, there was perhaps a speck where the paint didn’t find its way into the engraved lettering. I was astonished and in.

“This is handmade in Japan,” he beamed.

The sentiment, that spirit of care, the singular focus until you have reached the highest levels of quality possible resonated with me. Maybe it was a stage managed show they put on, but I was surely inspired to follow in this philosophy. This moment I realised later, became the genetic ancestor for the name of Tzukuri.

When arriving back in Sydney after the first trip, the excellent service of Google Translate told me that handmade in Japanese was 手作り. Transliterated into Latin characters, it would be Tedzukuri or potentially Tetzukuri. This struck me as an odd coincidence as the nickname given to me as a child by my father in a mixture of Taiwanese and Japanese, was 德さん (Te-san). In an even stranger stroke of serendipity, Allen happens to be derived from the Celtic Aluinn meaning handsome – which in the original sense was ‘ready at hand’ or ‘good with one’s hands’ rather than the current aesthetic definition, which of course I’m still more than happy to accept.

At first I was delighted and defintely a little tempted to follow in the footsteps of my great friend Matthew, who cleverly snuck his name into his own company title 'Automattic'— however the hard pronunciation due to the sheer number of syllables, as well as silent letters, made me think that it would be best if my name and hand were made absent. Thus, Tzukuri the name was born.

The Chinese characters for Tzukuri: 視酷利, which has an entirely different meaning, were a joint effort between my mother and father. But that’s a story for another day.

Beginning and Ending. A To Z.


to hear about new work, updates and
anything important I might wish to holler.
acknowledgement of country
I acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land on which we work. I pay respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their connection to the land. Sovereignty was never ceded.
about, orders and support
social media